President outlines a 2nd-term agenda

In broad terms, Bush vows to spread freedom, improve U.S. education

July 22, 2004|By Jeff Zeleny | Jeff Zeleny,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON - Beset by a series of challenges from his first term and an electorate uncertain about granting him another, President Bush declared yesterday that he has "turned a corner in spreading freedom throughout the world" and said that theme would remain a critical piece of a second term he is tenaciously fighting to win.

"We will pass the enduring values of our country to another generation. We will continue to lead the cause of freedom and peace," the president said. "And we will prevail."

At a Republican fund-raiser, where 7,000 contributors toasted him at "The President's Dinner," Bush reflected on the successes and the struggles from four years in the White House and promised to outline a forward-looking agenda in August.

The president has waited longer than most of his recent predecessors in sharing his plan for a second term. Some Republicans have urged the White House to begin offering such a plan to change the subject from the war in Iraq.

In his speech last night, Bush offered only a generic outline of his plan for another four years, pledging to "spread opportunity to every corner of this country." Senior campaign advisers said a full agenda would be outlined as the president campaigns in August before the Republican convention in New York.

He charged that his Democratic rival, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry would raise taxes - the "wrong medicine" for the economy, Bush said.

"This nation is on a rising path, and with four more years we'll achieve more growth, new and higher-paying jobs and greater opportunity for all of our citizens," Bush said.

Before being greeted by House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois and other Republican congressional dignitaries on stage, the president made his first visit to his campaign headquarters across the Potomac River in Virginia. He shook hands and thanked more than 170 aides.

Despite the worry of some within the campaign, the president exuded confidence when a Romanian news correspondent asked about the election challenges that lie ahead.

"Let me answer you this way," Bush replied. "I am going to win."

The president's 36-minute address drew enthusiastic applause last night from those who contributed $23 million to GOP congressional campaigns.

But senior Republicans concede privately that Bush is on the defensive with slightly more than three months left until Election Day. A Pew poll released yesterday shows that his job approval rating remains below 50 percent, and Democrats have gained a 12-point edge over Republicans on handling the economy.

"His chances for a second term are clearly threatened, and he's anything but a shoo-in to be re-elected," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "His presidency is at risk."

Still, Kerry, has made little headway in breaking the statistical deadlock in his race with Bush. Of 2,009 adults surveyed in the nonpartisan poll from July 8 to July 18, Kerry drew support from 46 percent compared with Bush's 44 percent.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing company.

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