- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2002

CRAWFORD, Texas President Bush yesterday predicted 2002 will be "a great year," partly because Americans have re-evaluated their priorities and returned to "the basics in life" faith and family.

Dropping in at the local Coffee Station for a cheeseburger, the president said Americans can rely on him to return the unemployed to work, protect the nation from attack and fix public health systems.

"It's going to be a great year because people are going to be able to find work again. It's going to be a great year because our military is going to do the job the Americans expect. It'll be a great year because at home we'll protect the American people.

"And it's going to be a great year primarily because Americans have taken a look inward, reassessed their values, have realized that some of the basics in life are that which is most important love of faith, love of family. And as a result, our communities have been stronger," Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush said it was not mere chance that Americans were able to cope after terrorists killed more than 3,000 people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

"We're a blessed nation. God has richly blessed America. And for that, we ought to be grateful," he said. "We're a nation that has gone through incredible suffering and hardship. Yet, as a result of it, we're a strong nation and a united nation.

"And 2002, in my judgment, is going to be a great year," he said.

The president said he was looking forward to "an early night tonight."

"I guess at the age of 55, it's expected that or it's OK for a guy to go to bed at about 9 p.m., maybe 10 p.m. So I don't plan anything glamorous for New Year's Eve," he said.

Mr. Bush, who quit drinking when he turned 40, was asked whether he made any resolutions for the new year.

"Resolutions? Eat fewer cheeseburgers," he said to laughter.

While the president predicted that America will rise from the ashes of September 11, he urged Americans not to become complacent. He also vowed to make sure the government does all it can to protect the nation.

"Let's just put it this way, that the administration and the government [are] on alert and have been since" September 11, he said. "And the American people realize we have a new culture, and that is one of being vigilant.

"We've got people working overtime during the holidays," Mr. Bush said. "Anybody who tries to harm an American, there's a good chance we're going to get them."

He also said, "The whole culture of the FBI has changed for the better. The FBI's main task now is to protect Americans from further attack."

He praised the alertness of ordinary people in reacting to a potential terrorist threat.

"The country is on alert. And a classic case was the person who tried to put the bomb in his shoe. And a flight attendant on the American flight alertly notified people, and they got it.

"And he's now we're now giving him a chance to tell us what he knows about terror and about al Qaeda," Mr. Bush said.

The president, who plans trips later this week to highlight his 2002 agenda, said the government is focusing its efforts on "making sure the public health system works."

He did not spell out the details, but the Senate last month passed a $3.2 billion bioterrorism package that boosts vaccine stockpiles and sends millions to hospitals and clinics.

Mr. Bush's trip to the tiny restaurant in Crawford was not a well-kept secret. More than 100 people, including some children on horseback, lined the highway as his motorcade made its way into the small town.

Susan Snowden, who lives in Crawford and works at an insurance company in Waco, said word got out in town of his visit when Secret Service dogs made a sweep of the Coffee Station. "One tells, and the whole town knows," she said.

Onlookers waved and cheered when he emerged from his sport utility vehicle in his hometown garb blue jeans, sport shirt and brown jacket. He waved to the crowd.

One man shouted, "You're doing a great job, George."

But the crowd also included tourists. Dorothy Kohler of Max, N.D., drove over from Waco, where she was visiting friends, to see where the president lives.

"I'm just in awe," she said of her opportunity to view the president.

"Being in North Dakota, we don't get a lot of anybody," she said.

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