WASHINGTON, D.C., FEBRUARY 23—As he entered his second month in the White House, President George W. Bush spent the week pushing his economic and military proposals.
Foreign Policy: Pentagon officials revealed the recent air strikes in Iraq were designed to take out a fiber-optic network, being built by the Chinese, that would link the different parts of Saddam Hussein’s air defense system. The military aid violates United Nations sanctions against Iraq.
This bit of news raised ticklish questions for Bush, since his administration was just beginning to take up relations with the Chinese government. Things quickly took a chilly turn, as the president issued a stern statement. “Let me just tell you this,” he said. “It’s risen to the level where we’re going to send a message to the Chinese.”
Economy: In Italy, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill said the Bush administration would stand behind a strong dollar, squelching speculation the U.S. would let the buck decline as a means of boosting exports and thereby gunning the economy.
Environment: In press interviews, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said she wouldn’t protest Bill Clinton’s eleventh-hour monument designations, even though she disagreed with what the former president had done. However, she indicated rules governing activities in the different monument areas might be drawn to allow certain sorts of private business activity—oil and gas development, anyone?—and accommodate nearby property owners.
Education: President Bush put a dollar figure on his education reform proposals, asking Congress for an 11 percent—or $4.6 billion increase—in federal spending for education. That’s still less than half what the Democrats wanted to spend. Under Bush, total federal outlays for education would rise to $44.5 billion.
Budget: Bush indicated his spending plan would aim to slow the rate of growth of the federal government. He said the administration would honor its commitments to protect Social Security and Medicare.
Latin America: Bush said he was for fast-tracking the Latin America trade pact that would tie North and South America together in one big trading zone. He expressed doubts about over-extending military and other help to Colombia, lest the country get caught up in the seemingly endless fighting there.