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Bush sounds conciliatory, divisive tones

Striking twin themes for his second term, President Bush vowed Saturday to fight hard for his political agenda while reaching across the aisle to Democrats.
/ Source: The Associated Press

President Bush is striking twin themes for a second term, vowing to fight hard for his political agenda while reaching across the aisle to Democrats.

“Americans are expecting bipartisan effort and results,” Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address. “My administration will work with both parties in Congress to achieve those results, and to meet the responsibility we share.”

Offering some words of conciliation, he said Republicans and Democrats can agree to aggressively pursue the war against terrorism, with every citizen having a stake in the outcome.

The challenge to working together, Bush suggested, will come on the domestic front.

“We must confront the junk and frivolous lawsuits that are driving up the cost of health care and hurting doctors and patients,” he said. “We must continue to work on education reform to bring high standards and accountability, not just to elementary schools, but to the high schools as well.”

Democrats challenge Republican claims that frivolous lawsuits are on the rise and have successfully blocked reforms in Congress. Doctors say ballooning malpractice insurance rates are a problem nationwide, and physicians have staged protests or walkouts in several states.

Lawsuit reform was a major issue in the presidential campaign, with Bush bringing it up daily in his speeches, focusing on the fact that Kerry running mate John Edwards was a trial lawyer who sued doctors.

Bush’s proposed education reforms may meet the same criticism that he faced in his first term with the No Child Left Behind Act: a good idea that was insufficiently funded by the administration and Congress.

The president stressed another issue with skepticism at home and abroad, promoting freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Those goals are “the alternatives to tyranny and terror,” he said.

Bush also promised to take on the special interest-clogged issue of reforming the tax code, a step he said the nation must take to get rid of needless paperwork and to make the economy more competitive.

He also committed his administration in its second term to altering the Social Security system, which he has said must be addressed by allowing taxpayers to invest part of their Social Security contributions in private accounts if they wish.