Bush gives peek at his national speech

President Bush prepares his State of the Union speech with, from left, Dan Bartlett, White House Communications Director, Mike Gerson, director of Presidential Speechwriting, and speech writers Matthew Scully and John McConnell in the Oval Office Thursday . Just barely into his third year as president, Bush goes before Congress and a worldwide television audience Tuesday night, to brace the nation for the prospect of a possible war with Iraq.

The Associated Press
Published: Sunday, January 26, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 26, 2003 at 1:24 a.m.
WASHINGTON - President Bush gave a brief preview Saturday of the list of priorities he will put before Congress this week: overhauling Medicare, cutting taxes, involving religious groups more deeply in government programs and restraining federal spending.
The proposals in the State of the Union address Tuesday night are the president's chance to the define what he considers at least the starting point for the year's legislative work.
Bush used his weekly radio address to impart a taste of the speech to be delivered a week beyond the two-year midpoint of his presidency.
The president said he will focus on broad themes such as boosting the economy, making the country safer from attack, giving the elderly greater access to health care, preaching the gospel of compassion. Beyond it all, he said, will be one overarching message of optimism.
"Our nation faces many great challenges all at once," the president said. "We will meet all of them with courage and steady purpose."
Tuesday's address comes a day after U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq present their findings to the Security Council. Although Bush is expected to forewarn Americans that war may be coming, he touched on the topic in his radio remarks only briefly, and obliquely.
"We will take every measure that is necessary to protect the American people from terrorist groups and outlaw regimes," he said. "The world depends on America's strength and purpose, and we will meet our responsibilities for peace."
Instead, Bush summarized the domestic agenda for 2003 that he will lay out in more detail before Congress.
Bush said he would ask lawmakers to approve his $674 billion, 10-year tax-cut plan. He argued that its much-criticized centerpiece, to eliminate taxes on stock dividends, would "lay the foundation for future prosperity by encouraging investment and helping Americans to prepare for the new jobs a growing economy will bring."
The president also plans to announce next week broad outlines of his proposed changes in the nation's health care system, including a plan to modernize Medicare while adding some prescription drug coverage.
The speech, and the 2004 budget request he sends to Capitol Hill in early February, also will include new initiatives to make more federal community services money available to religious groups, Bush said.
Finally, he promoted his plan to boost next year's spending by no more than 4 percent, less than half the growth expected this year. Restraint is critical to economic growth at a time when war and economic hard times are combining to push the federal deficit upward, he said.

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