- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2001

SAN ANTONIO — President Bush planned to end his monthlong working vacation today after promising the American Legion that he would implement "the largest increase in military spending since Ronald Reagan was the president and commander in chief of the United States."
Greeted by a standing ovation from 5,000 veterans at the American Legion's national convention yesterday, Mr. Bush vowed to pressure Congress into significantly beefing up military funding, which declined during the Clinton administration.
"The services will receive the support and means they need to operate," Mr. Bush said. "In order to boost the morale of our military, it starts with taking care of our people. But there's more. This budget I submitted to Congress makes national defense a priority."
In an effort to pre-empt arguments from Democrats that he was spending too much on the military, Mr. Bush renewed his call for development of a missile defense shield system.
"To meet any dangers, our administration will begin building the military of the future," the president said. "We must and we will make major investments in research and development.
"And we are committed to defending America and our allies against ballistic-missile attacks, against weapons of mass destruction held by rogue leaders in rogue nations that hate America, hate our values and hate what we stand for," he said. "It's a dangerous world. We have to have clear-eyed foreign policy."
He added: "This nation still has enemies, and we cannot expect them to be idle. And that's why security is my first responsibility, and I will not permit any course that leaves America undefended."
Mr. Bush planned to return to Washington this afternoon for the first time in four weeks.
He is expected to spend the weekend at Camp David in order to give workers time to put the finishing touches on renovations of the West Wing and the residence of the White House.
The president said his "batteries are charged" after spending a month in what he called America's "heartland."
Although he was widely criticized by Democrats and the press for taking off so much time, Mr. Bush remained unapologetic and insisted he had spent much of the month traveling and working.
"You may have heard recently, this past month, I've been outside of Washington," Mr. Bush said with a grin. "I set up a western White House, right up the road in Crawford, Texas.
"But I've been spending a lot of time traveling the heartland of America. And I'll do more traveling this fall, speaking about my agenda and the values behind it.
"I plan to speak about the values of service and good citizenship that sustains our country," he added. "That's where the greatness of America shines through — not in the halls of government, but in the character of our citizens."
Looking more relaxed than at any other time since taking office, Mr. Bush resolved to tackle an ambitious agenda this fall, including passage of his education bill, faith-based initiative and a patients' bill of rights.
At the same time, he said, he would try to keep Congress from cutting funds for education and the military while overspending on other initiatives.
"Oh, there's a lot we've got to get done this fall, and I'm looking forward to getting back to work," the president said. Vice President "Dick Cheney and I didn't seek our offices so we could just settle in and mark time. We didn't come to rubber-stamp the status quo.
"We came to challenge old assumptions and to provide new directions," the president added.
"We came to get something done for the country and to change the tone in our national discourse."
One such change involves referring to tax revenues as the property of ordinary Americans, not the government.
It is a dramatic departure from President Bill Clinton, who rarely characterized tax revenues that way.
Yesterday, Mr. Bush referred to the upcoming appropriations process as Congress deciding "how they're going to spend your money." He also cited yesterday's anemic gross domestic product figures as evidence that Democrats should not overturn his tax cut.
"Our economy began slowing down last year, and that's bad news," he said.
"But with the tax reduction already in place, Americans will have more of their own money to spend, to save and invest, the very things that make our economy grow," Mr. Bush added.
"Tax relief is exactly the right thing, the right prescription at the right time for the American economy."
In recent days, the president has all but dared Democrats to raise taxes during the economic slowdown, knowing such a move could be a political disaster.
He continued the taunts yesterday.
"Now there are some who are second-guessing tax relief," he said. "You hear the voices beginning to filter out of their home states. I presume those who now oppose tax relief are for raising your taxes.
"That would tie an anchor on our economy," he concluded. "And I can assure you, I won't allow it."


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