LOS ANGELES, OCT. 26 -- President Bush put 3,000 miles between himself and the budget negotiations in Washington today and said that if the American people don't like the higher taxes that are coming out of the talks, they should blame the Democrats in Congress and vote them out of office.
The president also sought to turn voter resentment of politicians in general against the Democratic majority in Congress. He endorsed a California ballot initiative that would limit the terms of state officeholders and called term limits for members of Congress "an idea whose time has come."
"The Democrats . . . don't understand the mood of the country," Bush said. "They truly believe they deserve to be elected from now until kingdom come. . . . We don't need perpetual legislators. We need more Republicans."
Even before administration and congressional negotiators wrapped up the deficit-reduction agreement that grew out of negotiations called by Bush, the president hit the campaign trail hoping to undo some of the political damage he and the Republican Party have suffered during the talks.
He said the "strong medicine" of the new budget deal -- which he said would be good for the country -- was required to offset the "uncontrolled spending binge" of the Democratic Congress.
With his own party sharply divided over the budget agreement and nervous that his willingness to raise taxes to reduce the deficit has robbed the GOP of an issue and part of its identity, the president tried to reassure Republicans that their differences with the Democrats are still clear.
He painted the Congress as "hamstrung" by special interests, more interested in "feel-good proclamations" than sound policies and controlled by the "unbridled influence of an entrenched congressional staff."
Bush was here to raise money for Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.), who is in a tight race for governor with former San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein (D). But Wilson was in Washington, awaiting final agreement on the budget.
Wilson addressed the $1,000 a plate fund-raiser here by satellite television and praised the president for his leadership. Wilson voted earlier in the week to uphold Bush's veto of the civil rights bill. Bush won applause for defending the veto, saying the Democrats are more interested in embarrassing him than in passing a good civil rights bill.
Wilson noted that his poll ratings have improved since he went back to Washington, under pressure after missing key votes. A Los Angeles Times poll published today showed Wilson at 45 percent and Feinstein at 42 percent. A poll taken Oct. 13-16 showed a virtual dead heat, with Wilson at 42 percent and Feinstein at 41 percent.
There were no embarrassments for Bush such as those that greeted him during a New England swing Tuesday. Here and in heavily Republican Orange County earlier today, hotel ballrooms were filled by enthusiastic young people who cheered for Bush at every opportunity.
Bush expressed irritation at a remark by House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) published in today's Washington Post that accused the president of failing to provide leadership during the budget talks by not explaining to the American people why the strong medicine of higher taxes and cuts in federal spending were needed.
"The American people know all too well that strong medicine . . . is required because the Democratically controlled Congress has been on an uncontrolled spending binge for years," Bush said. He added that the budget deal was not the best possible package, only the best possible "with this Congress."
"The best way for America to stand against more spending and more taxes is to elect more Republicans to the House and to the Senate of the United States," he said.