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Inside Politics

Bush set to make case for second term

Aides say he will defend war in Iraq, oppose same-sex marriage

President Bush prepares for Tuesday's State of the Union address in the Family Theater of the White House on Monday.
President Bush prepares for Tuesday's State of the Union address in the Family Theater of the White House on Monday.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Ten months before he faces voters, President Bush will warn in his State of the Union address Tuesday of leaving "work unfinished," and aides said the speech is designed to rebut attacks from the Democratic presidential candidates and defend his decision to invade Iraq.

In excerpts of the speech provided by the White House, Bush will tell Americans that the war on terrorism continues.

"We have not come all this way through tragedy and trial and war only to falter and leave our work unfinished," reads one excerpt. "Americans are rising to the tasks of history and they expect the same of us."

Aides said he will lay out his presidential legislative priorities and his international priorities. And the president will also tackle the issue of same-sex marriage, declaring as he has done before that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

White House chief of staff Andrew Card said Bush will say that "if necessary, he'd be glad to support a constitutional change" to support that idea. (WH considers constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage)

The president has been under pressure to come out in favor of such a constitutional change from conservatives alarmed by a Massachusetts court decision in November that opened the door to a recognition of same-sex marriage.

On the international front, aides said Bush will address the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq and that U.S. troops continue to be killed there. (U.S. death toll in Iraq tops 500)

Bush will make the case that the United States faces a real threat of another terrorist attack, aides said.

The president will focus on domestic issues and the economy, crediting his tax cuts for bringing the economy out of recession, and arguing that they should be made permanent. (CNN/Money: The state of the Bush economy)

One senior administration official said the 50-minute speech, scheduled to start at 9 p.m. ET, will mention a bill that will focus on job training and retraining for the unemployed.

The president's political advisers hope an upbeat, uninterrupted address to the nation one night after Monday's Iowa caucuses will provide a contrast to Democrats competing for the chance to challenge Bush. (On to New Hampshire, after Iowa caucuses, Democrats to make a Spanish-language response)

In an interview with CNN, Karen Hughes, a close adviser to the president who has been working with him on the speech, said Bush will cite "steady progress" in fighting terrorism and turning the U.S. economy around.

"The president tonight will make the case that we now face a choice," Hughes said. "We can continue that progress or we can turn back."

Bush also will urge Congress to change the law so that a portion of Social Security payroll taxes can be invested in the stock market and other private investments accounts, aides said. (Full story.)

He will reiterate his recent call for a temporary guest worker program under which millions of illegal immigrants could get temporary legal status in the United States. (Full story.)

And he will support proposals to reduce health care costs.

Iraqi Governing Council President Adnan Pachachi will be one of Bush's guests in the House chamber. Pachachi was in New York earlier in the day for meetings at the United Nations. (Full story.)

Pachachi will help Bush illustrate how Iraq is changing into a democracy, several administration sources said.

Budget priorities drive content

With a $500 billion budget deficit that angers Democrats and alarms a number of fiscal conservatives in his own party, Bush will be limited in how much he can offer in new, election-year initiatives.

The contents of the speech have been decided in large part by the administration's budget priorities, because the president faces a February 1 deadline to propose a spending blueprint for the fiscal year that begins in October.

Bush continued to practice his address Monday, running through it twice in front of his advisers with the help of a TelePrompTer, a senior administration official said.

CNN's Dana Bash and John King contributed to this story.


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