"Now, let me tell you, I'm a little concerned. I'm proud of our workers; I'm concerned about the fact that our economy is just bumping along. This is a Labor Day where we can't celebrate a booming economy. For the last 12 months -- let me repeat -- for the last 12 months the economy has been way too slow. And people are hurting. And people are suffering.
--President Bush speaking to Teamsters at a Labor Day barbecue
After an August away, Bush and the Congress return to town, prepared to follow through on their respective promises to fight over the budget and the diminishing surplus. Bush spent the Labor Day weekend cozying up to union voters in the Midwest and expressing his "concern" about the shaky state of the economy, all the while trying to deflect the blame.
While critics divide responsibility for the evaporated surplus between the sagging economy and the Bush tax cut, the president is taking a preemptive strike against excessive congressional spending that he anticipates during the budget fight this fall. That's a tough line to walk, considering that Bush himself has already demanded that Congress approve his boost in the military budget. The Democrats have argued all along that there's just not enough money left for education, the military, or any other additional spending since Bush won his $1.35 trillion tax cut.
At the same time, congressional Republicans are vowing to find enough money to support a cut in the capital gains tax. Though Bush has yet to publicly back such a cut, congressional Democrats will likely put the call for capital gains reduction to two political uses: first, it will fuel their argument that the GOP is fiscally irresponsible; second, it will bolster their assertion that the GOP is more interested in giving tax breaks to the rich than to preserving the Social Security trust fun for ordinary Americans.
As Democrats try to trip him up over the economy, Bush has become dependent on the help of a Democratic leader in the Senate to help shepherd his faith-based charity initiative through that body. Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Ct., has taken the lead on the president's policy, which Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D, seems content to let die. But the alliance between Bush and Lieberman on the issue is complicated by the senator's presidential ambitions. By working to reshape the initiative in a way that will inspire Democratic support for legislation, Lieberman could portray himself as a bipartisan deal-maker who could do more for Bush's "compassionate conservative" agenda than the president could do himself.
Bush also has to worry about those on his political right trying to push him away from the center. A coalition of conservative interest groups that oppose abortion are mounting a campaign to pressure the president to commit to appointing an anti-abortion jurist to fill the next Supreme Court vacancy. While Bush's decisions thus far have favored the anti-abortion side, he's avoided speaking much about the issue since moving into the White House, a continuation of his evasiveness on the issue during the campaign.
And don't miss Bush joining celebrities like Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and Whoopi Goldberg in supporting a national anti-gossip campaign. Promoters of WordsCanHeal.org will air public interest ads encourage Americans -- particularly children -- to refrain from speaking harshly about others.
Tuesday's schedule: The president meets with congressional leaders to discuss the budget.
This day in Bush history
Sept. 4, 1998: During the gubernatorial campaign, the Democratic opponent of Texas Gov. George W. Bush taunts his political rival for spending four weeks out of the state, campaigning for other Republicans. Gary Mauro insists the traveling indicates that Bush has already lost interest in governing his own state, and is really running for the White House.
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