WASHINGTON – His second term secured, President Bush (search) is reaching out and asking the 55 million people who voted to oust him from office to get behind the ambitious agenda he's laid out for the next four years.
The work of making good on a raft of tough-to-keep campaign promises begins Thursday, when Bush sits down with his Cabinet (search) for their first such meeting since Aug. 2.
In a quietly jubilant victory speech Wednesday that came a full 21 hours after the polls closed, Bush outlined the goals he plans to start work on immediately and pursue in the next four years, a period he termed "a season of hope."
He pledged to keep up the fight against terrorism, press for stable democracies in Iraq (search) and Afghanistan, simplify the tax code, allow younger workers to invest some of their Social Security withholdings in the stock market, continue to raise accountability standards in public schools and "uphold our deepest values and family and faith."
Other items include reforms to the nation's intelligence community, halving the record $413 billion deficit, expanding health care coverage, a constitutional ban on gay marriage and moving "this goodhearted nation toward a culture of life."
"Reaching these goals will require the broad support of Americans," Bush said, as he asked Sen. John Kerry's disappointed supporters to back him although many of his proposals are anathema the opponents of his re-election.
"I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust," he said. "When we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America."
Bush also has pledged a full-court press with Congress, where a continued GOP lock on both houses makes getting his wishes granted easier, but not guaranteed for a lame-duck president.
The disputed 2000 election left Bush without a mandate, but he governed as if he had one. The White House made clear Wednesday that it believes that mandate did not elude Bush this time, when he became the first presidential candidate since 1988 to win a majority of the popular vote, 51 percent.
"President Bush ran forthrightly on a clear agenda for this nation's future and the nation responded by giving him a mandate," Vice President Dick Cheney said, introducing Bush.
Even before the election, aides started work on a new budget, and the administration is preparing to ask Congress for up to $75 billion more to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and operations against terrorism. The figure indicates the wars' costs, particularly to battle the intensified Iraqi insurgency, are far exceeding expectations laid out early this year.
Another sticky item could be a Supreme Court appointment, with Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 80, suffering from thyroid cancer. Time and energy also will be consumed dealing with the inevitable rash of Cabinet departures, likely to include at least Secretary of State Colin Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.
Still, Bush is sure to spend the remaining days of his first term and much of his second dealing primarily with the same issues that have dominated the last three years — the anti-terror battle, the war in Iraq and the economy.
In Iraq, where more than 1,1000 American soldiers have died and a violent insurgency continues, Bush must seek to fulfill his pledge to turn the country into a model democracy for the Arab world and bring U.S. troops home. He campaigned on a claim of superior ability to lead there, but without describing precisely how he would accomplish either goal.
But first, some time for rest after a grueling, bitter campaign. After the Cabinet meeting, Bush was headed to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland for a long weekend.