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Interview with the president

"Interview with the president" Continued...

That we're the party of free trade, low taxes. We cut taxes when I was president of the United States, not once, but several times. That we're the party of empowering individuals, that we believe in accountability and results. But if you're the president of the United States and you've got kids in harm's way, you're going to make sure those kids get all the equipment necessary to do their job. You bet the budgets expanded when I was president, in terms of military and defense, and homeland security, because we're at war.
THOMAS: But we also have the prescription drug benefit, No Child Left Behind.
PRESIDENT BUSH: No Child Left Behind is a measure that says, in return for money, you measure. And it's one of the most advanced pieces of civil rights legislation we've had recently, because it said we're sick and tired of monies being spent on schools that aren't teaching children how to read and write and add and subtract. And, therefore, there will be accountability for money spent.

Secondly, on prescription drug benefit-so the threshold is, should there be health care for elderly, from the governmental perspective. That decision was made in 1965 by Lyndon Johnson. And maybe some argue that we should never have done this in the first place, and, therefore, we ought to scrap the system. That's not my position. My position was let's make the system work; let's make it modern.

So when I campaigned for office-and by the way, if you look at these issues we're discussing, I made it clear what my position was. If you look at the 2000 convention speech, I said one of the things we will do is reform Medicare: They have not led, we will. Same with education. People knew my position very clearly. And so on Medicare, we would pay $28,000 for the surgery, but not a dime for the prescription drugs to prevent the surgery from happening in the first place.

So in other words, we modernized the system, which-as opposed to causing the exorbitant sums of money that was projected, it cost something substantially less than that. Because inherent in the Medicare was also competition for people's business, because I argue that we ought to trust seniors to make health care decisions of their own, as opposed to just, here it is, take it or leave it-we said, here is a variety of options from which to choose. So competition helps drive down price and enhance quality.

And finally, as part of the Medicare reform, there were health savings accounts, an innovative way of getting the consumer, the patient, the person purchasing health care to be directly involved in the relationship between needs and what's available. And that's important for pricing and quality over time.
THOMAS: In your recitation of what Republicans still believe, you didn't mention the social issues. Colin Powell has blamed conservatives for the party's bad performance, urges the party to abandon some of these social issues. Would they be wise to do so?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I have, as you know, been a strong defender of the culture of life. And I believe that's an important part of our party's future.

I will be the first to concede that laws change only after hearts change, but our party has been on the leading edge of saying to people there's a better way than what took place in the past in the country on a very sensitive issue like abortion. We were the ones who fought for the ban on partial-birth abortion, and then went to the courthouse to defend it. We're the ones who promote adoption. And I hope I was able to do so in an understanding way. I said that I understand good people can disagree on this issue. But as we disagree, let's keep things in mind-that all life is precious; that a society is strong when it worries about the most vulnerable among us, whether it be those who are elderly, those who are sick, and those who are yet unborn.

And I do believe we have made progress on the issue of culture of life. I do believe people are beginning to understand why a person like me takes the position I take. And I do believe we can take those positions without being so judgmental that our voice is not heard. In other words, I have always tried to say I understand your position, but here's mine, and here's why I think this makes sense for a compassionate America.


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