WASHINGTON – Besieged by questions about his National Guard (search) record and intelligence failures in Iraq, President Bush is trying to turn the nation's focus back to education and the economy, two of his election-year priorities.
For the 25th time since he became president, Bush on Thursday was traveling to Pennsylvania, the nation's fifth-largest electoral prize, and one that he lost in 2000.
At Central Dauphin High School in Harrisburg, Bush was to discuss his education policies as well as ways to create jobs, a sensitive issue in this year's election with more than 8 million Americans unemployed.
"The president will be talking about how American workers can get the skills they need to compete in the 21st century and succeed," White House spokesman Trent Duffy (search) said Wednesday.
The Bush administration has been under fire from both Democrats and Republicans this week after Gregory Mankiw (search), chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, described the loss of American jobs to overseas companies as "just a new way of doing international trade."
In a rare split with the White House, House Speaker Dennis Hastert said Wednesday that he disagreed that shipping American jobs abroad — a practice known as outsourcing — was good for the U.S. economy. "We can't have a healthy economy unless we have more jobs here in America," said Hastert, R-Ill.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chimed in: "All I can say is, `Mr. President, what planet are you living on?' Americans want and need good jobs to support their families — not in Asia or Europe or Latin America or Mars."
Mankiw made the comment on Monday as the White House released its annual report on the economy.
The report predicted that the economy would grow by 4 percent and create 2.6 million new jobs this year. If the jobs forecast comes true, it will represent the first year of the Bush presidency in which there will be a net increase in payroll jobs. Since he took office, the country has lost 2.2 million payroll jobs.
The Bush administration's jobs outlook, included in the annual report to Congress, comes as the economy is gaining steam. Job growth, however, has been sluggish, with a flood of jobs going overseas. The White House says the pace of job growth is increasing and would be boosted further if Congress enacting the president's economic plan.
The president's growth plan includes making tax cuts permanent; spending $250 million to fund partnerships between community colleges and employers to train workers in high-demand sectors; $100 million to help students with reading, and $120 million to improve math education.
Bush also is seeking to expand advanced-placement programs in low-income schools and has proposed larger Pell Grants for students who prepare for college with demanding courses in high school.