"In all, I've asked Congress to provide our military an increase of $39 billion over the original 2001 appropriations. This is the largest increase in military spending since Ronald Reagan was the Commander-in-Chief. We are not only going to spend more on national defense, we're also going to spend it more wisely."
--President Bush speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Milwaukee
Bush's Democratic detractors, who had already pounced on the president as a reckless spender got more ammunition Monday when a Treasury Department report confirmed expectations that the surplus is slipping. But the president is employing a time-tested strategy for dealing with critics - pointing the finger back at them.
In a preemptive strike in the budget battle, Bush warned Congress not to resist his planned increases in military spending, and hinted that concerns about the deficit were just a politically convenient excuse for misplaced priorities. "Everybody in Washington knows there is a budget. But new spending gets thrown in along the way," the president said Monday. Bush further added that defense spending often gets sacrificed in last-minute scrambles to stay within the budget, but that's a practice he wants ended. "That's the old way of doing business," he said. "That's old style of thinking."
And the Democrats are saying much the same about Bush, claiming that his all-gain, no-pain economic plans of increased spending and slashed taxes are what got America into debt in the first place, and that the president is dragging the nation back into deficit spending.
While the economy is providing plenty of chances for Democrats to takes shots at Bush, there's also the unfinished business of election reform to beat him over the head with. Pressing the August news lull for maximum advantage, a panel of congressional Democrats released a report Monday suggesting that only federal action could correct nationwide, Florida-style election problems like bad equipment and patchwork voting standards. Though he praised voting reform in principle, Bush has been conspicuously cool to specific measures to fix election issues, and so any Democrat-backed federal solution will likely provoke a fight from the White House.
Senate Democrats aren't above sparring with Bush in the off-season, either. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has placed a hold on the nomination of Donald Schregardus, the president's choice to be the Environmental Protection Agency's top enforcement officer. Schumer and other Democrats claim that Schregardus's record as an environmental regulator for the state of Ohio shows a tendency to go too easy on polluters, making him unfit to take on industry at the national level.
And don't miss Vice President Cheney preparing for an angry protest when he speaks at the Utah Republican convention on Saturday. But don't expect the usual suspects. The Utah Gun Owners Alliance is planning to protest against Cheney because guns have been banned from the event as a security measure. The Alliance's Web site declares the ban "completely unacceptable," and suggests several slogans for protest signs, including "Gun owners elected you, Mr. Cheney," and "Republicans trust Republicans -- with guns."
Thursday schedule: The president speaks at Harry S. Truman High School in Missouri.
This day in Bush history
August 21, 1994: The Washington Post notes that the race between George W. Bush and Gov. Ann Richards for Texas governor has made the incumbent lose her cool. Richards is quoted as lamenting that the close race with her inexperienced challenger shows that some citizens lack of respect for long-term public servants. "You just work like a dog. You do well, the test scores are up, the kids are looking better, the dropout rate is down," Richards told a rally of supporters. "And all of a sudden you've got some jerk who's running for public office come and tell you that it's all a sham and isn't real and doesn't give you any credit for a thing you've done. And that is exactly the way I feel."
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