LOUISVILLE, Ky. – President Bush road-tested his new political stump speech here on Thursday, saying that Democratic anger at his policies "is not an agenda for the future of America."
Voters have a clear choice in November, Bush told 1,000 supporters at a fund-raiser that raised $1.2 million for the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign.
"The man who sits in the Oval Office will set the course on the war on terror (search) and the direction of our economy," Bush said in downtown hotel. "The security and prosperity of America are at stake."
He said his opponents have not offered alternate strategies to fight terrorism or expand the economy. "So far, all we hear is a lot of old bitterness and partisan anger," Bush said. "Anger is not an agenda for the future of America."
As Bush got his campaign in gear, it was only fitting that the midday fund-raiser was hosted by three-time NASCAR champ Darrell Waltrip (search), a Bush family friend. Outside the hotel ballroom, about 100 protesters demonstrated with pink signs that simply said "Jobs."
To rebut Bush's remarks, Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., in a conference call arranged by the Democratic front-runner, John Kerry, criticized Bush for proposing the same economic solutions he did nearly four years ago when the country was experiencing a surplus.
"At that point, he was making the case for tax cuts because we were running a surplus," Ford said. "And here we are three years later, almost four years later now, and the country is facing its deepest fiscal challenge in its history, and he continues to offer the same economic recipe he offered almost four years ago."
"I contend the country wants something different, the country needs something different, from an economic standpoint," he said, citing a string of Kerry's proposals that he said would lend a boost to the economy.
Earlier in the day, Bush visited a thriving plastic pipe factory to insist that Congress make tax cuts permanent to help keep the economy growing and create jobs.
"I'm calling on Congress to make the tax cuts set to expire permanent," Bush said at ISCO Industries, a family-owned company situated just east of downtown Louisville. "I would like Congress to make all tax cuts permanent, but the very minimum, the very minimum, they need to ... make those set to expire in 2005 permanent."
Tax cuts set to expire at the end of this year include most of the increase in the child tax credit to $1,000, an expansion of the bottom 10 percent tax bracket that lowered taxes for virtually every worker, and some changes lessening the marriage penalty.
Bush said his political opponents who say "Let's get rid of Bush's tax plan" really want to raise taxes on Americans. "That's code word for `I'm going to raise your taxes.' That's what that is," he said.
While the unemployment rate has been falling and payrolls growing modestly in recent months, the 8.3 million Americans who were out of work last month continue to be a sensitive political issue for Bush as the re-election race gains steam.
Last week, the president distanced himself from White House predictions that the economy will add 2.6 million jobs this year. The economy has lost 2.2 million payroll jobs since Bush took office, the worst jobs record of any president since Herbert Hoover.
A top labor leader in Kentucky said Bush has presided over an economy that has been "hemorrhaging" manufacturing jobs -- 25,000 in Kentucky alone since Bush became president.
"We think Bush gets a failing grade for his economic policies," said Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO (search). "There's really nothing good to say about the Bush economy from the perspective of working families."
Bruce Crater, a fabricator at ISCO Industries, said he would give Bush a "B-minus" for his handling of the economy.
"We're seeing some turnaround," Crater said. "It's just going to take a long time to come back, but we're going in the right direction."
Bush had planned to go on to Charlotte, N.C., to visit Central Piedmont Community College and attend another fund-raiser, but that leg of his trip was canceled because of snowy weather, and he headed back to Washington.