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Published: 7/25/2003

President visits Michigan, touts progress

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

DEARBORN, Mich. - President Bush touted progress in the aftermath of the war with Iraq and pointed to signs the American economy is emerging from recession during two appearances in the Detroit area yesterday, including a visit to a defense plant and to a $2 million fund-raiser for his campaign coffers.

“The regime of Saddam Hussein is no more,” he proclaimed yesterday afternoon to about 200 employees and well-wishers at the headquarters of Beaver Aerospace and Defense, Inc., in Livonia.

“Our brave troops still face danger in Iraq, because there are people there who hate the thought of a free society. They can't stand freedom, and they're dangerous. But we will find these terrorists as well, and we will bring them to justice,” Mr. Bush said, making mention of the deaths Monday of Uday and Qusay Hussein.

“As we know, earlier this week, two of the favorite henchmen of Saddam Hussein, were brought to justice. They were discovered, and their violent careers ended in justice. These two sons of Saddam Hussein were responsible for hundreds and hundreds of people being tortured, and maimed, and murdered.

“And now the Iraqi people have seen clearly the intent of the United States to make sure that they are free, and to make sure that the Saddam Hussein regime never returns again to Iraq.”

Beaver Aerospace manufacturers several parts for missiles and for several different types of military and civilian aircraft. Mr. Bush thanked workers there for their efforts, much as he did at a Boeing plant in St. Louis and a tank plant in Lima, Ohio, earlier this year.

Introduced by Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, the President focused much of his speech on money matters.

“Economists are saying this economy is picking up,” he said. “They are feeling positive about America and its economic future. They know what I know. We have been through a lot, but we are strong.”

“Interests rates are down. That makes it easier for a person to buy their house. If you got your house and interest rates are down, it makes it profitable to refinance your house [and] put a little extra money into your pocket. Inflation is low, which is positive. Productivity is up. Sign after sign after sign says we are poised for growth,” Mr. Bush said.

Democratic candidates for President have criticized the tax cut signed earlier this year by Mr. Bush as a contributor to an increasing federal deficit, but the President, calling it a “jobs and growth” bill, predicted it would be the key to growth in the economy.

But Michigan Democrats, in a conference call with reporters yesterday, disputed the President's claim that the economy has turned around, pointing to tough economic times in the state.

U.S. Reps. John Dingell and Bart Stupak, two Michigan Democrats, said the administration's tax cuts have indirectly resulted in the loss of manufacturing jobs.

The state's 7.2 percent unemployment rate is higher than the national average of 6.4 percent. Michigan has lost 127,500 jobs since August, many in the manufacturing sector, they said.

Mr. Dingell, of Dearborn, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said a National Association of Manufacturers study shows that Michigan has lost one of every six manufacturing jobs since July, 2000.

“The simple fact of the matter is we have to do something very urgently to end this tide,” he said.

Mr. Stupak called the Michigan economy “dismal.” He said Democrats favor tax cuts, but only if they're targeted to low and middle-income families.

A small crowd of protesters gathered outside the Ritz Carleton Hotel here, where the President spoke to a crowd of nearly 1,000, each of whom gave $2,000 to attend the event.

Fred Ecklund, 47, of Detroit, said Mr. Bush should have stayed in Washington to concentrate on domestic problems, including homeland security, and should not have waged war “against a country that could take care of itself.”

Inside, Mr. Bush told supporters they were “laying the groundwork for what will be a great victory in 2004.”

Blade staff writer Tom Henry contributed to this report.



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