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War over, home truths confront Bush

Washington, April 16: In his moments of quiet reflection, President George W. Bush may well be hoping that the war in Iraq did not quite finish all that quickly.

Like for his father in 1991, the victorious President is suddenly forced to confront a mounting pile of domestic problems even before a sizeable number of US troops leave Iraq for home.

The President’s approval ratings among the American people have jumped from 59 per cent before the war to 73 per cent this week, but not on Capitol Hill, which he is no position to bomb into submission.

In the US Congress, Senators have slashed Bush’s $ 726 billion tax cuts package by more than half to $ 350 billion. Bush has a majority in the Senate, but even moderates in his party are opposing the cuts as a sop to the rich.

The House of Representatives agreed last week to a slightly lower cut at $ 550 billion and yesterday Americans saw their President who has been brimming with confidence all through the weeks of war virtually pleading with legislators to allow his fiscal proposals passage on Capitol Hill.

“We need at least $ 550 billion in that package, because the more tax relief that goes to the American people, the more jobs we will create in this economy,” Bush said yesterday.

The White House is also worried that Americans, who largely trust their President’s handling of war and national security do not share the same confidence in Bush when it comes to the economy.

A nation-wide poll yesterday found that only 46 per cent of Americans approved of the way Bush was handling the economy.

The Bush administration’s recently appointed treasury secretary John Snow said yesterday: “I think the economy is wobbly. I think this economy is uncertain. It’s on an uncertain recovery path.”

Sensing the urgency of the problem, the administration has drawn up a programme for 25 of its officials to hold 57 meetings in 40 American cities spread over 26 states in the coming fortnight to drum up support for the White House’s economic plans. The move came even as a report issued by the Federal Reserve, the US Central Bank, yesterday said industrial production in March showed the biggest monthly drop since December 2002.

If this is the picture of the national economy confronting the White House, the situation in states and major cities is no better. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday unveiled his city’s budget proposals, which instantly earned him the nickname of “Gloomberg”.

Among his worst case scenario proposals are lay-offs of upto 14,500 civic staff, closure of 40 fire stations, shutdown of all public swimming pools in the city and a drastic reduction in police force.

With US presidential elections due next year, what is haunting the White House is a repeat of the scenario after the last US assault on Iraq when the present President’s father won the war decisively, but lost the presidential election to Bill Clinton.

Clinton, still hugely popular with Americans, yesterday added to White House worries when he took the rare step of criticising his successor’s policies even before Bush could finish savouring the victory in Iraq.

“Our paradigm now seems to be: something terrible happened to us on September 11, and that gives us the right to interpret all future events in a way that everyone else in the world must agree with us. And if they don’t, they can go straight to hell,” he said at a conference.

Clinton cautioned that “if you got an interdependent world, and you cannot kill, jail or occupy all your adversaries, sooner or later you have to make a deal.”

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