- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 26, 2003

President Bush yesterday gave Americans a preview of the State of the Union address he will deliver Tuesday night, vowing to bolster the U.S. economy, provide prescription-drug benefits for seniors and protect the country from "terrorist groups and outlaw regimes."
"Our nation faces many great challenges all at once. We will meet all of them with courage and steady purpose," Mr. Bush said in his weekly radio address, in which he laid out some of his legislative and national security priorities for 2003.
"In 2003, we must work to strengthen our economy, improve access to affordable, high-quality health care for all our seniors, encourage compassion at home and abroad, and defend our nation against the threats of a new era," the president said.
While the main focus of his remarks yesterday were key tenets of his domestic agenda, the president stressed that the "war on terrorism is an ongoing priority for our nation."
"We will take every measure that is necessary to protect the American people from terrorist groups and outlaw regimes. The world depends on America's strength and purpose, and we will meet our responsibilities for peace," Mr. Bush said.
Senior administration officials have said that in his hourlong, nationally televised, prime-time speech to Congress Tuesday, the president will tell Americans that war with Iraq may be necessary because Saddam Hussein possesses "massive piles of weapons of mass destruction." But Mr. Bush did not mention Iraq directly in his broadcast yesterday.
The president's State of the Union address is to come one day after United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq are to present their initial findings to the U.N. Security Council.
CBS News radio reported last night that the White House seems willing to give U.N. inspectors extra time in their search for weapons.
However, a senior official said the administration is contemplating that alternative to reassure allies such as France and Germany who oppose military action against Iraq.
For the second day in a row, a prominent Democrat publicly attacked the president's efforts to improve homeland security. Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley criticized Mr. Bush's efforts yesterday in the Democrats' weekly radio address.
Mr. O'Malley said Baltimore, "like every other city and town in America, has been left virtually defenseless by our federal government's failure to fund homeland defense."
The mayor charged that the "front-line soldiers of our homeland defense," such as firemen, police officers and health personnel do not have the "equipment, training and communications systems necessary" to keep America safe.
"Our nation cannot fund America's homeland security on the back of local property taxes and firehall bingo proceeds. Your neglect of homeland defense funding has relegated the common defense to yet another unfunded federal mandate for already cash-strapped cities cities that are still reeling from federal and state tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthy and a damaged and sluggish economy," Mr. O'Malley said, adding:
"Please, Mr. President, no more teary tributes to our fallen police and fire heroes until you back up our living first respondents with the tools and equipment they need to protect our nation. These are the nation's real priorities."
The Baltimore mayor charged that the Bush administration "forced a $2.5 billion cut for homeland security efforts, and congressional Republicans cut an additional $1 billion." Now, he said, "You propose eliminating 1,200 FBI agents. Do your priorities truly reflect our country's needs?"
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, at a conference Friday night in Manhattan, also attacked the administration's record on homeland security. Mrs. Clinton called the Bush administration's homeland security plan a "myth" and held that the United States is only marginally safer than it was prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
In his radio address yesterday, Mr. O'Malley said that "in the population and economic centers of our country … we are still as terribly exposed as we were on September 11."
Meanwhile, Mr. Bush said he'll be asking Congress to approve his 10-year, $674 billion tax-cut plan. He also defended his proposal "to eliminate the unfair double taxation of [stock] dividends."
The president said his tax-cut package will "lay the foundation for future prosperity by encouraging investment and helping Americans prepare for the new jobs a growing economy will bring."
Mr. Bush also said he will be proposing "new initiatives to bring the work of faith-based and community groups" into government programs to help the needy.
He also will be calling for restrained federal spending, saying it's "important to economic growth and job creation" and "critical to reducing the [federal] deficit."
"Under my budget, discretionary federal spending will rise by 4 percent, about the same as the increase in family incomes. Government should not grow faster than workers' paychecks. Government should follow the example of American families by setting priorities and staying with them," Mr. Bush said.

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