'Relaxed' Bush cites progress on tax, education plans
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Wednesday he felt "pretty darn good" about the job he is doing, citing progress on a tax cut and negotiations with Democrats on his education agenda.
An upbeat Bush also acknowledged a more low-key style than his predecessor, former President Clinton, and professed his honor in working in the Oval Office as the nation's 43rd president.
"I feel free and relaxed," Bush said. "I feel comfortable; perhaps that's because I'm on bended knee every morning, asking for guidance and for comfort. Whatever the reasons, I'm enjoying myself."
Bush offered his own assessment of his first 100 days, which officially comes Sunday, saying he has made more progress than some pundits had predicted.
"Some of the agenda that I talked about in the campaign that people thought would be dead on arrival seems to be doing quite well, which is tax relief. Another is education reform," the president said.
Continued work on tax-cut plan
On domestic issues, Bush refused to commit to specific figures in the ongoing negotiations with Congress over tax cuts and the budget.
The House has a approved a $1.6 trillion tax cut over years. The Senate measure was $1.2 trillion.
In a separate interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, Bush said he was ready to compromise with Congress on his tax-cut plan. He acknowledged that a final tax-cut plan would be less than $1.6 trillion, but added that it should be greater than $1.2 trillion.
"My answer is, let's get as much as possible for the American people," Bush said in the CNN interview.
Bush also acknowledged rising gasoline prices and said his administration would take steps to prevent price-gouging. But he said the long-term solution was an energy policy that would boost domestic oil and gas supplies while promoting conservation.
On the question of discretionary spending, which Bush wants to limit to 4 percent growth, the president called the Senate's proposed cap of 8 percent "just not acceptable." Asked if he would accept 6 percent, he said, "I am keeping all options open."
'Complex' relationship with China
Bush also talked at length about China, describing a "difficult" and "complex" relationship, but he maintained the United States could still have productive ties with the country, particularly in the area of trade.
"Open markets create more opportunity for freedom," he said, adding that he hopes Congress will maintain a favorable trade status with China.
The president disputed suggestions that his recent comments about doing "whatever it took" to defend Taiwan marked a significant policy change by the United States and said he had made similar comments on the campaign trail.
While expressing support for Taiwan, he also said the United States believes in a one-China policy and would not support a declaration of independence from Taiwan.
"We expect any dispute to be resolved peacefully," Bush said.
The president said a productive relationship with China was still possible, even if that country held onto a Navy reconnaissance plane that has been held there since April 1, when its pilot made an emergency landing on the Chinese island of Hainan after a collision with a Chinese fighter jet. China held the U.S. crew for 11 days.
"I'm confident we'll get the plane back," Bush said. "I'm concerned about the plane. I was much more concerned about the people."
The president seemed to agree that his style has been more low-key than Clinton. He did not greet the U.S. crew that had been detained by China when the men and women came home, and he made no public statements during the recent racial unrest in Cincinnati.
"... I think the president can either help or not help a situation," he said. "I'll just have to make a judgment call each time."
Bush vows 'whatever it takes' to defend Taiwan
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