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President Bush outlines agenda

From Wolf Blitzer
CNN

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President Bush speaks to reporters Thursday, at his first news conference after his re-election.
YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
Wolf Blitzer Reports
George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After walking from the West Wing to the Executive Office Building under rainy skies, President Bush used his first news conference since getting re-elected to lay out his priorities for the next four years.

"I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it," the president said.

He said he'll spend it fighting the war on terror, reforming the nation's intelligence community and tax codes, ending frivolous lawsuits that he says drive up health care costs, and, perhaps most controversial, reforming Social Security, including some privatization.

"We must lead on Social Security because the system is not going to be whole for our children and our grandchildren," said Bush.

Responding to questions for nearly 45 minutes, the president said he had made no decisions yet on how many more billions he'll need to pursue military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. There have been reports his budget advisers are preparing a request for an additional $70 billion.

He also said the Pentagon has not yet asked him to approve additional U.S. troops in Iraq. There currently are around 135,000.

"Our commanders will have that which they need to complete their missions," the president said.

When a reporter cited a news report that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had just died -- a report that later turned out to be untrue -- the president offered this:

"My first reaction is, God bless his soul. And my second reaction is that we will continue to work for a free Palestinian state that's at peace with Israel."

On political issues, Bush again reached out to Democrats asking for their support. He acknowledged that he got greater support than Sen. John Kerry at the polls from religious Americans. But he promised he would never impose his faith on others.

"The great tradition of America is one where people can worship the way they want to worship. And if they chose not to worship, they're just as patriotic as your neighbor. That is an essential part of why we are a great nation," Bush said.

Earlier in the day, the president met with his Cabinet amid already widespread speculation that some members would be leaving sooner rather than later.

"There will be some changes," the president said. "I don't know who they will be. It is inevitable there will be changes. It happens in every administration."


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