TAMPA - While delivering his current stump speech at a fundraiser in Raymond James Stadium on September 21 for Congressional candidate Gus Bilirakis (R- Palm Harbor), President Bush told the 400 some guests his reply to those who question if the people in the Mid East want democracy, "I personally believe there's an Almighty, and I think a great gift from that Almighty is the desire in everybody's soul to be free."
So having been called the 'devil' and accused of undemocratic behavior by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez the night before at the United Nations Summit probably offended the President's personal, spiritual and political sensitivities.
Whatever his thoughts on Chavez were, the President didn't reveal them publicly to the Bilirakis supporters gathered to hear him speak and have their portraits taken with him. Nor did the local media have a chance to ask him to comment on Chavez as the 13 or so journalists who were prescreened for admittance to the event were seated in a cordoned off section, unable to approach the President as he mingled with the one thousand dollar per ticket guests. Several of the President's upcoming campaign stops across the country will be closed to the media entirely because according to the White House, the events will be held in private homes.
At stake for the GOP is power in the House, as the Democrats need to win just 15 seats to gain control. Vice President Dick Cheney touted Bilirakis earlier in July. To reach a wider base the majority of the President's speech was tailored for broadcast to an audience beyond Tampa Bay. Most of it was devoted to reviewing the Democrats propensity to raise taxes and defending the Iraq war.
Looking unscathed by the Chavez incident, the President bounded on stage and praised Gus Bilirakis, who like the President is following in his father's footsteps. The senior Bilirakis, Mike, has held the Congressional seat since 1982 and is set to retire after his twelfth term ends in December.
Urging supporters to work to get more District 9 votes for Gus, which covers north Pinellas, south Pasco and south east Hillsborough counties, the President said, "Go to your churches and places of worship, community centers, and remind people that you've got somebody who is honest and decent and who shares the values of the people in Tampa. Vote for him and send him to Washington, D.C."
The President launched into his speech saying he was happy to be lending his campaign muscle. "I'm looking forward to reminding the American people there are significant differences between what our party believes and what the other party believes," he said.
Stating his administration's view on tax policy he illustrated a major difference, "We believe that the best people to spend your money is you…we know that when you save, invest and spend it, it helps this economy grow."
The President criticized the past five years of the Democrat's voting history concerning tax policy. "When we first cut taxes back in 2001 to get this economy growing ... almost 85 percent of the House Democrats voted against it. When we cut taxes in 2003, nearly 95 percent of the House Democrats voted against you having more money in your pockets."
Pausing for those percentages to sink in, the President surmised, "I think you're beginning to get the drift of their philosophy about your money."
He predicted that if the Democrats got the chance to raise taxes, they'd explain they did so to balance the budget. "That's not the way Washington D.C. works," he warned. "They will raise your taxes and figure out new ways to spend your money."
The budget, the President said, is best balanced when keeping pro-growth economic policies that generate additional tax revenues into the Treasury in place, and when clear priorities are set, with the top priority being to make sure the military has what it takes to defend the country.
The President said he'd be working with "Congressman-to-be" Bilirakis on several issues, including keeping the peace.
"This is a nation at war. And we've got to have people in the United States Congress who see the world the way it is, not the way we would like it to be."
On overthrowing Saddam Hussein and continuing the war in Iraq the President stated, "The world is more peaceful because of it. And the world will be more peaceful when democracy takes hold in Iraq."
The President insisted that Iraq is the central front of the war on terror. He intimated that basing our troops in Iraq impedes Muslim fundamental extremists throughout the Mid East from achieving their goals. He beseeched the American citizenry to take heed of what al Queda leaders communicate. "I know some Americans say, well, it's not associated with the war on terror. Well, all I ask them to do is listen to what Osama bin Laden says when he calls Iraq World War III. All I ask is that our fellow citizens be realistic about the world and listen to the words of senior al Qaeda when they say [their objective] is to run us out of the Middle East, so they can topple moderate governments. So they could have energy resources at their disposal to inflict economic damage on those of us who refuse to cow tow to their demands, and run us out of the Middle East so that they could achieve one of their objectives, which is the destruction of our close ally, Israel."
Nearly a half million dollars was raised that afternoon for the Bilirakis campaign fund. Before leaving Tampa, the President made an unscheduled stop at the Buccaneer's training facility to meet Coach Jon Gruden and some of the players. He then boarded Air Force 1 for Orlando to deliver his stump speech and raise funds for Republican Governor hopeful Charlie Crist.
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