- The Washington Times - Friday, November 5, 2004

President Bush yesterday said his re-election proved that Americans have “embraced” his conservative worldview, which he plans to enact through an ambitious second-term agenda.

“I earned capital in the campaign — political capital. And now I intend to spend it,” an expansive Mr. Bush said at a press conference that doubled as a political victory lap. “I’ll reach out to everyone who shares our goals.”

He specifically reached out to evangelical Christians, who were crucial in his victory over Democratic Sen. John Kerry.

“I am glad people of faith voted in this election,” he told reporters at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.

The remarks came one day after Vice President Dick Cheney proclaimed that his boss had earned a “mandate” by beating Mr. Kerry by 3.6 million votes. Mr. Bush agreed, saying he will not be shy about pushing through a long list of policy initiatives over the next four years.

“Something refreshing about coming off an election,” he observed. “When you win, there is a feeling that the people have spoken and embraced your point of view.

“And that’s what I intend to tell the Congress — that I made it clear what I intend to do as the president,” he added. “And the people made it clear what they wanted. Now let’s work together.”

In the arena of domestic policy, Mr. Bush wants to simplify the tax code, pass tort reform and partially privatize Social Security for younger workers. Although he said he planned to work with Democrats, he acknowledged that will not be easy.

“I’ve been wisened to the ways of Washington,” he said. “I’ve watched what can happen during certain parts of the cycle, where politics gets in the way of good policy.”

The president promised to push through his agenda anyway.

“Results really do matter, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “I really didn’t come here to hold the office just to say, ‘Gosh, it was fun to serve.’ I came here to get some things done.”

Mr. Bush said he was equally determined to work with American allies in the global war on terrorism, although he emphasized he was not about to change his principles to curry international favor.

“I’ve made some very hard decisions — decisions to protect ourselves, decisions to spread peace and freedom,” he said. “And I understand in certain capitals and certain countries, those decisions were not popular.”

He was referring to France and Germany, which opposed the U.S.-led overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

“The Iraq issue is one that people disagreed with,” the president said. “But I believe that when the American president speaks, he’d better mean what he says in order to keep the world peaceful.”

He added: “Whatever our past disagreements, we share a common enemy.”

Mr. Bush was particularly adamant about pressing forward with his policy of democratization in the Middle East.

“There is a certain attitude in the world, by some, that says that it’s a waste of time to try to promote free societies in parts of the world,” he said. “I fully understand that that might rankle some, and be viewed by some as folly. I just strongly disagree.”

But with Saddam and the Taliban regime of Afghanistan overthrown and the president loath to extend his doctrine of military “pre-emption” to nations like Iran and North Korea, he seemed more focused on wrestling with thorny domestic initiatives during his second term.

“I readily concede I’ve laid out some very difficult issues for people to deal with — reforming the Social Security system for generations to come is a difficult issue,” he said.

“I’m not sure we can get it done without Democratic participation,” he said. “But it is necessary to confront it.”

Mr. Bush was asked whether Democrats have an obligation to meet him halfway on his agenda.

“One of the disappointments of being here in Washington is how bitter this town can become and how divisive,” he said.

He said the divisiveness was “sometimes exacerbated” by the press “because it’s great sport.”

“It’s entertaining for some,” he added. “It also makes it difficult to govern at times.”

But Mr. Bush pointed out that he is “more seasoned” after his first term in office.

“I’ve cut my political eyeteeth — at least the ones I’ve recently grown here in Washington — and so I’m aware of what can happen in this town,” he said. “Nevertheless, having said that, I am fully prepared to work with both Republican and Democrat leadership.”

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