In Speech, Bush Tries To Ease Fears On Economy

By Kristen Mack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 18, 2007

President Bush attempted yesterday to calm Americans' anxiousness about the economy, even as he acknowledged that the nation's financial forecast is not entirely sunny because of the credit-market and mortgage crises.

"There's definitely some storm clouds and concerns. But the underpinning is good, and we'll work our way through this period," Bush told a group of business and community leaders at a Rotary Club meeting in Fredericksburg, Va.

"We've had a pretty good economic run here in the country," Bush said. "And yet there are some challenges," he added, addressing the financial uncertainty felt by many.

Because of those challenges, the president said in a quick political pivot, the Democratic Congress "cannot take economic vitality for granted." He said the worst thing Congress could do in this economic climate would be to raise taxes, and he repeated both his vow to "veto any tax increase" and his call for Congress to send him an appropriations bill that includes funding for the Iraq war without "artificial timetables for withdrawal."

Democratic leaders countered that the White House continues to see the economy through rose-colored glasses. Bush should restore fiscal discipline at home and stop spending billions on another country's civil war, said Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid.

"President Bush's claim that 'we've had a pretty good economic run here in the country' is detached from the reality of most middle-class Americans," said Reid (Nev.). "The middle class is facing declining wages and rising prices for everything from health care to gas to college tuition."

Bush acknowledged that the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Stafford may strike some as an unusual venue for a president to talk about the economy, but he explained his choice by saying, "This is where jobs are created; this is where dreams are lived; this is where values are upheld."

The audience of about 80 included Rotarians and other business leaders from Fredericksburg and Rappahannock County, members of Congress, and state and local officials.

Afterward, the president took questions for nearly 30 minutes, but he declined to answer the final question, from a financial adviser who wanted his thoughts on the stock market next year.

"Far be it from me," Bush said. ". . . I don't think you want your president opining on whether the Dow Jones is going to be going up or down."

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