Bush: Prevail in war, defeat recession
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush urged Americans on Tuesday night to be patient with the war on terrorism, to be steadfast in the protection of the United States and to know that creating new jobs is the best cure for the U.S. economy wounded by September 11.
Despite the nation being at war and struggling in a recession, "the state of our union has never been stronger," Bush told a joint session of Congress in his first State of the Union address.
The president also warned that "our war against terror is only beginning." And he emphasized that homeland security must be strengthened because thousands of terrorists remain at large.
"Most of the 19 men who hijacked planes on September 11 were trained in Afghanistan's camps, and so were tens of thousands of others," Bush said.
"Thousands of dangerous killers, schooled in the methods of murder, often supported by outlaw regimes, are now spread throughout the world like ticking time bombs -- set to go off without warning," he said.
The president saluted Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, who was present in the House gallery, saying Afghanistan and the United States are now "allies against terror."
Bush also acknowledged the widow of CIA operative Johnny "Mike" Spann, the first American killed in combat in Afghanistan. Shannon Spann was sitting with first lady Laura Bush.
"Shannon, I assure you and all who have lost a loved one that our cause is just, and our country will never forget the debt we owe Micheal and all who gave their lives for freedom," he said.
The president pledged America would continue to be "steadfast, patient and persistent" in completing two objectives of the war on terror:
-- Shutting down terrorists' camps, disrupting their activities and bringing them to justice.
-- Preventing terrorists and regimes "who seek chemical, biological or nuclear weapons from threatening the United States and the world."
The president singled out North Korea, Iran and Iraq for seeking weapons of mass destruction.
"States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world," he said, adding the civilized world must act because the "price of indifference would be catastrophic."
Vice President Dick Cheney, who has often not appeared with the president since the terrorist attacks due to security concerns, took the vice president's traditional seat behind the president.
House Republican Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, was not in the Capitol for the address as a matter of "continuity in government" -- in case something "untoward" happened during the speech, DeLay press secretary Stuart Roy said.
Roy said DeLay was flown by helicopter to a "secure location" over an hour away.
Saying his first priority was the security of the nation, Bush said he would ask for the "largest increase in defense spending in two decades."
He said the money would buy more precision weapons, replace aging aircraft and make the military more mobile.
To prevent a future terrorist attack in the United States, the president called for doubling funding for a "sustained strategy of homeland security" focusing on bioterrorism, emergency response, improved intelligence, and border and airport security.
Bush praised the actions of the two flight attendants who spotted and subdued alleged shoe bomber Richard Reid on their aircraft. The president said American security depended on the "eyes and ears of alert citizens."
Bush vowed to "defeat this recession" and provide "economic security for the American people."
"When America works, America prospers, so my economic security plan can be summed up in one word: jobs," he said.
He noted, however, that it would be up to Congress to make sure "reliable and affordable energy" was available, to approve legislation for expanded trade and make his tax cuts permanent.
Bush warned that because the war on terrorism and homeland security would cause a budget deficit, Congress would have to "act in a fiscally responsible way" to ensure the deficit would be small and temporary.
He said health and retirement security were important components of economic security and said he would call for "the same spirit of cooperation we have applied to our war on terrorism" to the work on domestic issues.
The president avoided mentioning Enron's sudden economic ruin, but he said Congress needed to pass legislation to make corporate America "more accountable to employees and shareholders and held to the highest standards of conduct," so that workers who saved all their lives will not risk losing everything if their employer fails.
Bush challenged Americans to volunteer to help both their neighbors and their country, suggesting everyone commit to two years or 4,000 hours of voluntary service over their lifetime.
He invited people to join the USA Freedom Corps, which would focus on three areas: responding to crises in the United States, rebuilding communities and extending compassionate aid in other countries.
In helping others, Bush said, "We can overcome evil with greater good."
"Our enemies send other people's children on missions of suicide and murder. They embrace tyranny and death as a cause and a creed. We stand for a different choice," Bush said. "We choose freedom and the dignity of every life."
His 48-minute speech in the packed House chamber was interrupted dozens of times by applause.
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