- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

President Bush made a fervent plea to Congress last night to give him the same cooperation on the economy that it gave him in the war against terrorism.
In his first formal State of the Union address to Congress, Mr. Bush appeared steely eyed and resolute as he laid out his military plans for the next phase in the war to hunt down tens of thousands of al Qaeda-trained terrorists who are still at large around the world and to build a nationwide homeland defense apparatus to guard against future attacks.
But knowing full well that many voters will judge him and his party on the state of the economy in the fall congressional races, the president sought to link the national security issues of the war with the economic security of the country.
He pleaded with Democrats who fought his tax-cut stimulus plan last month to deal with the economy in "the same cooperation we have applied to our war on terrorism."
"He brandished a sword in one hand and olive branch in the other. The sword was to show his determination against our terrorist enemies, and an olive branch extended to Democrats to work with him in the fight to revive our economy," said Marshall Wittmann, political analyst at the Hudson Institute.
"At times it was inspirational. What I liked especially was his emphasis on a new commitment, that the country has gone from 'what's in it for me' to 'let's roll,'" said pollster John Zogby.
Mr. Bush's job approval polls are soaring in the 80s as a result of his handling of the war against terrorism. Yet he knows that those poll numbers can come tumbling down just as fast as they went up if he does not succeed in getting a stimulus bill through the Democratic Senate to turn the economy around in the coming months.
That was the fate that awaited his father, former President George Bush, who saw his high job approval scores plummet after the Persian Gulf war when the economy did not recover as fast as he had hoped it would and he was defeated in his bid for re-election.
Mr. Bush is not up for re-election until 2004, but political control of a closely divided Congress is up for grabs and the party that holds the White House usually loses seats in the midterm election.
That was why Mr. Bush stressed in his carefully crafted speech, which went through nearly a dozen drafts, that economic recovery was his No.1 domestic priority.
The politically flammable unemployment rate has risen to nearly 6 percent as a result of the elimination of more than 1 million jobs in the past three months, and White House economic advisers expect the jobless rate will climb even further when the new numbers are reported next week.
Mr. Bush's stimulus plan was blocked by Senate Democrats last month and their response to his speech last night suggested that they have not dropped their opposition to the accelerated tax cuts that he says are needed to get the economy growing again.
"When America works, America prospers, so my economic security plan can be summed up in one word: jobs," Mr. Bush said.
That will be his chief domestic message in coming weeks as he hits the road making speeches around the country to keep the political pressure on Congress to pass a stimulus bill.

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