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Americans have 'embraced' his policies, Bush says

Globe and Mail Update

Tuesday's victory shows that Americans have “embraced” his point of view, U.S. President George W. Bush said Thursday as he laid out priorities for a second term.

Mr. Bush vowed to finish the job in Iraq and made it clear that suppressing terrorism would be the focus of his next administration

“We are fighting a continuing war on terror and every American has a stake in the outcome of this war,” he told reporters gathered in a building adjacent to the White House.

“If we are interested in defending our country in the long run, the best way to do that is by promoting freedom and democracy,” he said. “That'll be a central part of my foreign policy.”

The President offered conciliatory words to those who had voted against him and to the “civilized world” that has not always backed his policies.

“Whatever our past disagreements, we share a common enemy.”

On the domestic front, Mr. Bush indicated that he will keep true to his campaign promises to reform Social Security – allowing young people to invest some of their contributions privately – and streamline the tax code, saying that he will immediately begin to look for allies among the new legislators elected Tuesday.

“I feel it is necessary to move an agenda I told the American people I would move,” he said.

Voters have given Mr. Bush a powerful hand to play, returning increased majorities in both the House of Representative and the Senate. As well, the Supreme Court is aging and as many as four vacancies could open up during his second term.

Mr. Bush was vague on both the Supreme Court and plans for his cabinet, several influential members of which are rumoured to be considering their options. He said that he had thanked his cabinet at a meeting earlier Thursday but had made no decisions on what to do with either it or his White House staff.

Noting that there was not currently a need to appoint another Supreme Court justice, he refused to speculate on possible candidates. He did reiterate his belief that judges should interpret the Constitution, not read into it.

Mr. Bush was clearly elated by his victory, cracking jokes with the reporters and, as he did so many times on the campaign trail, mocking his own lapses into inarticulateness.

He took obvious pleasure from edging Democratic challenger John Kerry, who he beat by about 3½million votes on his way to a 51-per-cent victory. The result was a significant improvement over four years ago, when Mr. Bush lost the popular vote but won the presidency anyway.

“When you win there's a feeling that the people have spoken and embraced your point of view,” he said.

The upbeat news conference descended into farce at one point, when a reporter acted on just-breaking, but false, reports of Yasser Arafat's death and asked Mr. Bush for his reaction. Mr. Bush, unaware that reports of Mr. Arafat's demise had been greatly exaggerated, bowed his head and said “God bless his soul.”

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