Bush lists second-term agenda

Friday, November 5, 2004

WASHINGTON -- With the backing of a popular-vote victory, President Bush sketched a second-term agenda Thursday that includes fighting the worldwide war on terror and seeking tax overhaul and fundamental changes in Social Security at home.

"I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it," Bush said a day after a decisive victory that made him the first president in 68 years to win re-election and gain seats in both the House and Senate.

Bush also pledged to pursue the foreign policy that was a flashpoint in the presidential campaign and has sparked criticism by some American allies in Europe.

"There is a certain attitude in the world by some that says that it's a waste of time to try to promote free societies in parts of the world," he said, a reference to Iraq in particular. "I've heard that criticism," he said.

He opened his first postelection news conference by prodding the lame duck Congress that meets later this month to send him an overdue spending bill. He also called for approval of legislation to overhaul the nation's intelligence apparatus to help protect against another attack.

Turning his attention to the new Congress, where Republicans gained seats in Tuesday's elections, he said he wants legislation to fundamentally reorder Social Security and the tax system.

Bush has long advocated changes in Social Security to permit workers to invest a portion of their own payroll taxes in individual retirement accounts. The proposal is intensely controversial, and opposed by many Democrats who argue it would undermine the finances of a system originally established to provide pensions to retirees.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats were stunned by some unexpected losses in the Senate and the defeat of their leader, Tom Daschle, an 18-year veteran. Republicans also gained seats in the House.

Democrats promised to challenge Bush's priorities.

"What the president is doing in fiscal policy is weakening the country, making us more vulnerable. It's so strange," said Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee.

Said Bush, "I readily concede I've laid out some very difficult issues for people to deal with. And I would hope to be able to work with Democrats to get this done."

The president began his day by meeting with his Cabinet. After the news conference, he looked ahead to a weekend trip to Camp David, where he said he would consider personnel changes for the second term.

"It's inevitable there will be changes," he said, adding that speculation about switches were a "great Washington sport."

He cautioned against participating in it, saying he hadn't made any decisions.

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