- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2008

Making it clear that he - not Sen. Barack Obama - is president of the United States, President Bush on Thursday cataloged his administration’s efforts to spread democracy and freedom throughout the world and set out the challenges facing the next commander in chief.

Hours before the first-term senator from Illinois was to deliver a speech in Berlin, the president warned that America’s “belief in the universality of freedom is being challenged once again.”

“So the challenge for America in the years ahead is to continue to help people in struggling nations achieve freedom from corruption, freedom from disease, freedom from poverty, freedom from hunger and freedom from tyranny,” Mr. Bush said in a speech at the Reagan Building.

Speaking in the same hall where Mr. Obama delivered a address on Afghanistan last week, the president discussed his administration’s successes, but repeatedly looked ahead to the coming challenges.

“The challenge for future presidents and future Congresses is to ensure that America always stands with those seeking freedom - and never hesitates to shine the light of conscience on abuses of human rights across the world,” he said to several hundred members of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The speech came as Mr. Obama, in the mold of President Kennedy, prepared to ascend to the world stage by delivering an address on freedom to Berliners.

He said that “no one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone,” and, while defending America’s role in spreading freedom, noted that “the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common.”

But the president struck a completely different tone, mentioning the Sept. 11 attacks four times and once again declaring that “to protect America, we must fight the enemy abroad so we don’t have to face them here at home.”

“Over the past seven years, this is exactly what we have done. Since 9/11, we recognized that we’re at war and we must stop new attacks before they happen - not wait until after they happen,” he said.

“We’ve captured or killed thousands of terrorists, including most of those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. We’ve removed regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq that threatened our citizens and the peace in the world,” he said. “And now we’re helping the people of those two nations fight the terrorists who want to establish new safe havens from which to launch attacks on America and our friends.”

Battling to stay relevant with the eyes of the worldwide media locked on Mr. Obama and with Sen. John McCain now the de facto head of the Republican Party, Mr. Bush detailed accomplishments of his administration. But the president’s remarks took on the air of a valedictory address, with Mr. Bush starting several sentences with, “Over the past seven years …”

Mr. Bush stressed one thought more than he has in similar speeches of the past: Although the United States needs toremain on offense in the fight against global terror, America must address the root causes of terrorism to “defeat the ideology of hatred.”

“In the long run, though, the best way to defeat the terrorists is to offer a hopeful alternative to their murderous ideology, and that alternative is based on human liberty,” he said.

The White House on Thursday released a fact sheet titled “Advancing the Freedom Agenda” in which it laid out administration achievements over the past seven years. Among them were:

cAdding $1.8 billion this year to bolster global food security.

cCreating the Millennium Challenge Account, which offers support to developing nations that fight corruption, govern justly, open their economies and invest in the health and education of their people.

cExpanding international trade, including the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which “is spreading prosperity by dramatically increasing trade between the United States and Africa.”

cImplementing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is supporting treatment for more than 1.7 million people. Mr. Bush also noted that the United States is working in 15 African nations to cut the number of malaria-related deaths in half and is expanding programs to treat neglected tropical diseases such as river blindness and hookworm.

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