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Bush: It's About Taxes; Dem: It's Iraq

President Bush defended his tax cuts Saturday, saying they had fueled a strong U.S. economy despite news this week of a slowdown.

In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush reprised his campaign trail argument that if Democrats gain control of Congress, they will let tax cuts expire.

"Cutting your taxes worked," Mr. Bush said. "Unfortunately, the Democrats are still determined to raise your taxes, and if they gain control of the Congress, they can do so without lifting a finger."

Mr. Bush said taxes are a huge issue in the Nov. 7 election. He said the tax cuts orchestrated by his administration have left more money in the hands of workers, families and small businesses — money they have used to sustain a bustling economy.

A Commerce Department report Friday, however, stirred fresh debate about the country's financial health.

The government report showed that during the July-to-September period, economic growth clocked in at an annual rate of just 1.6 percent — the slowest in more than three years. The sub-par performance mostly reflected the deepening housing slump; investment in homebuilding was cut by the largest amount in 15 years.

The new reading on economic growth fell short of the 2.1 percent pace analysts were forecasting. The report disappointed economists, rattled investors and gave Republicans and Democrats plenty to argue about. But the White House downplayed its significance.

"As we expected, this rate is slower than in previous quarters," Mr. Bush said. "Yet the evidence still points to a vibrant economy that is providing more jobs and better wages for our workers and helping reduce the federal deficit."

Democrats countered that the slowdown in economic growth is evidence that the administration and the Republican-controlled Congress are doing a poor job handling the economy. They said cooling economic growth undercuts the president's claim that his tax cuts are working.

"Just because the president looks through his rose-colored glasses and sees a strong economy doesn't make it so," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said.

Democrats are fighting for tax cuts for the middle class for education, health care and retirement, she said, and Mr. Bush "refuses to see the millions of Americans who are working hard and are unable to get ahead."

As he had several times on the campaign trail, Mr. Bush singled out for special emphasis the gradual doubling of the child tax credit from $500 to $1,000, one of several tax cuts passed with expiration dates.

"If Democrats have their way, the child tax credit will be cut in half — from $1,000 per child to just $500 per child," Mr. Bush said. "And think of what that means for your family. Next time you're having dinner at home, look around the table and multiply the number of children you have by $500. That's how much more you will be sending to Washington in taxes if Democrats take control of the Congress."

Va. Candidate Says Iraq Turnaround Depends On Democratic Takeover

Speaking in response to the President's radio address, Virginia Senate candidate Jim Webb said Saturday that the only remedy to a series of Iraq policy failures by President Bush is a Democratic takeover of Congress in the Nov. 7 election.

The former Republican, who was President Reagan's Navy secretary, said in the Democrats' weekly radio address that Mr. Bush's "incompetence" in Iraq had undercut the fight against terrorism.

"Since 2003, President Bush has laid out nine different plans for victory in Iraq, none of them serious and none of them workable. And most seriously, this incompetence has hindered our ability to fight international terror," Webb said.

It marked the second time since July 1 that Webb, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, has given the Democrats' address. Both times, his focus has been Iraq.

Webb warned in a newspaper column in 2002, the year before the president ordered the Iraq invasion, that a war there would destabilize the oil-rich Middle East and mire U.S. forces in a bloody and protracted conflict. As of Friday, 2,810 American troops had died in Iraq.

"It gives me no great pleasure today to be saying 'I told you so,'" said Webb, whose son, Jimmy, is a Marine on active duty in Iraq. "It pains me as an American that our casualties are again escalating while this president and his followers are still incapable of bringing forward an intelligent, commonsense approach to ending our involvement there."

Webb cited Iraq and other Bush-backed policies among his reasons for leaving the GOP. Now, other Republicans are reaching the same conclusions he did about the war.

"Over the past several weeks a few realists in the Republican Party, such as (Virginia) Sen. John Warner and former Secretary of State Jim Baker, have begun to make their voices heard. They are moving away from the fantasy world of this administration, toward real solutions," Webb said.

"A Democratic Congress will demand from day one that the president find a real way forward in Iraq. We'll work with the administration and other Republicans to develop a concrete plan, but none of us are ready to settle for empty rhetoric, or the same old unacceptable results," Webb said.

Webb is locked in a close race in Virginia against Republican Sen. George Allen that could determine whether the Senate remains in GOP control.