- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2006

President Bush is on a two-day push to draw attention to the economy, with the White House arguing that the administration’s accomplishments and the booming stock market have not received enough attention in the run-up to the Nov. 7 midterm elections.

Yesterday, Mr. Bush toured the Urban Trust Bank in Washington to underscore the increase in jobs and wages in the past few years, and to warn against miring the economy with new regulations and taxes.

“It’s been hard to get people to report on” the nation’s economic progress, said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

“You take a look at consumer confidence levels, they’re skyrocketing. People are feeling good about the economy. And if you take a look at the news coverage of it, it’s been overwhelmingly negative at a time when you do have just an extraordinary situation,” he said.

Democrats said the administration is turning to the economy because the war in Iraq is not rallying voters anymore.

The office of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said the economy still isn’t a bright spot for Republicans because it falls short of the levels under Presidents Reagan and Clinton. A statement pointed in particular to slower growth in personal income after inflation and taxes.

Meanwhile, the administration defended its Iraq policy, said no major course change is on the horizon and disputed speculation that it is setting deadlines and timetables for the Iraqi government to take more control.

In a morning blitz of television appearances, White House counselor Dan Bartlett said the administration has been working with the Iraqi government to set milestones and benchmarks.

Republicans across the nation, taking cues from Democratic critics, have begun questioning the administration’s plans for Iraq and demanding a change.

Mr. Bush spoke Saturday with top military and civilian leaders about adjusting tactics in Iraq, but the White House said the strategy will not change.

Mr. Snow acknowledged yesterday that efforts announced during the summer to increase security in Baghdad have failed.

“It’s pretty clear that the first iteration didn’t achieve the results that were desired, so that they’re continuing to work through ways to improve and adjust so that you do have the security that you want,” the spokesman said.

He said Mr. Bush has stopped using the phrase “stay the course” to describe his Iraq policy, because “it left the wrong impression about what was going on.”

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