- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2002

President Bush and congressional Democrats both shifted their political focus from Iraq to the faltering economy in radio addresses yesterday, as new pre-election polls show voters worried about pocketbook issues.
Mr. Bush scored a political victory late last week, with both the House and the Senate passing bipartisan resolutions authorizing the use of military force against Iraq.
"Confronting Iraq is an urgent matter of national security. America's economic security, especially the creation of good jobs, is also an urgent matter, requiring presidential and congressional action," Mr. Bush said in his weekly radio address.
He said that 300,000 U.S. construction workers, laid off because many builders and real estate owners lost insurance coverage against terrorist attacks after September 11, 2001, will be back on the job if Congress passes a terrorism insurance bill he is pushing.
This legislation "will cost us nothing if we experience no further attacks," Mr. Bush said. "Yet, it will mean thousands of new jobs for America's hard-hats and billions in new investment. And if we do face another attack, we'll be able to compensate victims quickly and limit the economic damage to America."
In the Democrats' weekly radio address, Sen. Jean Carnahan of Missouri, who is in a tough re-election campaign to hold on to her U.S. Senate seat, called for Congress to pass a measure that would provide a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits to 2 million Americans who will exhaust their jobless benefits shortly after Christmas. The extra 13 weeks would be in addition to the 13-week extension Congress passed earlier in the year.
"Our weak economy is just not creating enough jobs," said Mrs. Carnahan, who is running against former Republican Rep. Jim Talent.
"Several times this week, the Democratic leadership in the Senate tried to pass another 13 weeks of extension of unemployment benefits. But each time, that effort was blocked by Republican senators. We call on the president and the Republicans in Congress to join us in supporting this much-needed relief for those who have lost their jobs," she said.
Mrs. Carnahan added: "As we continue our war on terrorism, we cannot lose sight of our serious economic issues here at home. Today, we are hurting because of record job losses, weak economic growth, declining business investment, a falling stock market, shrinking retirement accounts and rising health care costs."
Democrats have been trying to make the weak economy, rather than national security, the chief issue in the midterm congressional campaigns. A new poll showed that the president remains vulnerable on economic issues.
A Pew Research Center poll released yesterday found that voters, by a 2-to-1 margin, feel that Mr. Bush could do more to help boost the sluggish economy.
The poll also showed that American voters want political candidates to address domestic issues more than national security issues abroad.
The Pew survey found that people overwhelmingly approve of Mr. Bush's handling of the anti-terrorism campaign, 71 percent to 22 percent. Likewise, they said they favor Republicans over Democrats, 46 percent to 30 percent, to make the right decision on Iraq.
However, poll respondents also said they trust Democrats more than Republicans, 41 percent to 37 percent, to deal effectively with economic issues.
In his radio address, Mr. Bush disagreed with those who say he has not been aggressive enough in dealing with the economy. He cited action he took earlier this week to reopen Pacific Coast ports that had been shut down "for more than a week due to a labor dispute," costing the economy "up to a billion dollars a day."
"The action I took this week will help keep our economy moving and allow labor and management more time to resolve their differences," the president said.
Mr. Bush also said Congress is "close to a final agreement" on a terrorism insurance bill, whose passage would help stimulate economic growth and job creation.


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