- The Washington Times - Monday, April 10, 2006

President Bush said he will not take sides in the 2008 Republican presidential primaries and said he is happy that Vice President Dick Cheney isn’t running because it means they can focus on policy and not politics.

But Mr. Bush said he expects to campaign for the Republican nominee in the fall.

“I will be an interested observer, and I’m sure I’ll be roped into moments, after our party nominates a candidate. But I’m just going to let the politics run its course,” Mr. Bush said.

He also said he does not intend to act like a lame-duck president.

“I am going to spend 2 years charging as hard as I possibly can,” he said. “I want to sprint out of office.”

When asked by a student from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University yesterday about his legacy and whom he would pick as his successor, Mr. Bush said: “I’m not through yet, you know.”

Heading into his second term, Mr. Bush said he had earned “political capital” and planned to spend it on passing Social Security reform, tax reform and immigration legislation, as well as pursuing the more general goals of winning the war on terror, education and economic growth.

But his agenda has bogged down as he has spent most of his capital trying to maintain support for the war on terror.

Yesterday, he said he still has goals, including reducing dependence on fossil fuels, working on Social Security and Medicare and pursuing an immigration bill.

Mr. Bush said the upcoming election is the “most wide-open race” in a long time, since there will be no sitting president or vice president running.

The president said he was “glad” that Mr. Cheney is not running. He said if Mr. Cheney were to run, “it certainly changes the dynamics inside the White House.”

Mr. Bush has seen that situation up close before, when his father, the sitting vice president, ran for president in 1988.

The Johns Hopkins students stumped Mr. Bush several times — once when they asked what controls there are on private security contractors working in Iraq, and again when they asked why U.S. policy opposes working with nongovernmental organizations that work with prostitution networks, even when it involves fighting sex-trafficking.

Mr. Bush promised to ask Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld about the first question and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the prostitution-policy question.

“It sounds like I’m dodging here, but, again, you know more about this subject than I,” the president said in promising to call Miss Rice for an answer.

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