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Bush previews State of the Union in radio talk

President Bush says his State of the Union address will insist his administration is successfully confronting America's problems, while laying out an agenda focused on improving the economy and fighting terrorism.
/ Source: The Associated Press

President Bush says his State of the Union address will insist his administration is successfully confronting the nation’s problems, while laying out an agenda focused on guiding the economy to even better times and aggressively waging the war on terror.

“We will continue to confront the challenges of our time, and we will continue to make America a more secure, more prosperous and more hopeful place,” Bush said as he gave a stripped-down preview of his Tuesday night speech in his weekly radio address Saturday.

The radio address wasn’t the only way the White House hinted at the messages Bush plans to deliver during one of his most important speeches in the run-up to the November presidential elections.

Press secretary Scott McClellan offered some highlights Friday in two press briefings and was joined by another White House official who described the speech’s preparation to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

As described, the address will resemble in parts the one Bush delivers at campaign fund-raisers in which he broadly celebrates accomplishments of his administration while making the argument for staying in office past 2004 to complete work on uncompleted agenda items.

“We’re meeting our priorities at home and abroad,” McClellan said. “There are big issues facing the American people, and this is a time that requires leadership to bring the country together around great goals and great challenges. It’s a time to unite the American people around big priorities.”

White House aides began working on the address in late October. By Friday, when Bush took part in high-level editing, the speech was in the “double-digit draft stage,” the official said.

More fine-tuning sessions were planned over the weekend at Camp David, Md., with formal run-throughs in the White House theater on Monday and Tuesday.

Touting his accomplishments
Among the accomplishments Bush was expected to tout, according to McClellan: $1.7 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years that the White House credits for the improving economy; a sweeping education law that imposes testing mandates on schools; a 10-year $400 billion Medicare overhaul that provides prescription drug coverage to the elderly and injects private insurers into the government program; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that toppled hostile regimes, promoted democracy and confronted terrorism dangers; and the agreement with Libya to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction.

“America continues to wage a relentless campaign against terrorists who threaten our country. ... These terrorists are still dangerous, and we will stay on the hunt until they are destroyed,” Bush said in his radio remarks Saturday. “Here at home, we continue to build prosperity and economic security for our people.”

McClellan said Bush would propose some new initiatives, much of the wish list going to Congress will look familiar, topped by a request for lawmakers to not let the already enacted tax cuts expire as planned.

The president also was to call for allowing younger workers to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in the stock market and address the rising cost of health care by capping awards in medical malpractice lawsuits.

He also is expected to call for transforming what he views as ineffective government job-training programs in order to give workers skills for the actual jobs the economy is producing, and invigorate federal efforts on behalf of the needy by opening up more spending to religious groups.

All of those ideas have been frequent Bush themes, but they have received little support in Congress so far.