ORLANDO, Fla. -- President Bush fought back yesterday with blunt words and pounded fist against critics of his tax and budget proposals, deriding their "political carping" and demanding anew that Congress enact his economic growth plan unaltered.
As Democratic congressmen and governors again demanded that the president's package be revamped, the president labeled his opponents "professional pessimists" and insisted that his plan was fair in ways his opponents have overlooked.
Striking a newly rigid stance in an address before the National Grocers Association, Mr. Bush insisted that Congress meet his March 20 deadline for passing a growth package as well as his declared standard for its contents.
"Accept no excuses," he urged an audience of 5,000. "Accept no delays. And accept no substitutes."
A day after Colorado Gov. Roy Romer confronted Mr. Bush in front of television cameras to complain about what has been called White House budget "gimmickry," the presi
dent insisted that he bore "no hard feelings" about the tense East Room episode.
But White House aides, clearly troubled by the unexpected challenge and its symbolic significance, sought out reporters in an attempt to minimize its impact. White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater accused Mr. Romer, a Democrat, of being "rude to the president" and of mounting "the cheapest trick in the world" in a bid for press attention.
As Mr. Bush sought to regain his political footing in the wake of the attacks, he used his appearance here to test a stump speech punctuated with rosy tributes to the end of the Cold War and victory in the Persian Gulf, and with sharp new attacks on naysayers, regulators and lawyers.
But White House officials were closely focused on polls that show that Mr. Bush's budget and tax plans have found little resonance, and on criticism from Democrats and some within his own party who have dismissed the plans as inadequate.