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Published: Saturday, 1/22/2005

Briefings, prayer service open 2nd term for Bush

BY ANN McFEATTERS
BLADE WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF

WASHINGTON - His tuxedo back in mothballs, President Bush started the first full day of his second term with national security briefings on Iraq and a prayer service that included evangelist Billy Graham saying that having Mr. Bush in the White House for four more years was ordained by God.

Having danced fewer than nine minutes at the inaugural balls Thursday night, Mr. Bush was back at the White House an hour earlier than expected, officials said.

Mr. Bush also attended a packed midmorning interdenominational service at the National Cathedral with his wife, Laura, two daughters, Vice President Dick Cheney and his family, and 3,000 others.

This was the ninth presidential inauguration for Mr. Graham, frail and using a walker.

"Our Father, we acknowledge Your divine help in the selection of our nation's leaders throughout history, and we believe that in Your providence You have granted a second term of office to our President, George W. Bush, and our vice president, Richard Cheney," Mr. Graham said.

Mr. Bush's nominee for secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, still on the job as national security adviser, gave the President an update yesterday on the upcoming Jan. 30 elections in Iraq. The administration expects that the turnout will be at least 80 percent, despite continuing violence there.

Mr. Bush now will prepare for his State of the Union speech, which will be delivered to Congress on Feb. 2, just before his budget goes to Capitol Hill. The budget, expected to call for across-the-board cuts of 5 percent except for the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, is expected to ignite a firestorm.

In his address a year ago, Mr. Bush insisted that marriage must be legal only between women and men, demanded that his tax cuts be made permanent, and called for an end of "frivolous" lawsuits.

He outraged Democrats with what House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California called "an isolationist foreign policy."

With Saddam Hussein newly captured at that time, Mr. Bush received a standing ovation when he mentioned Iraq. That may not happen this year.

More than half of Americans, according to polls, are dismayed that the fighting is continuing and that as of inauguration day, 1,368 Americans had been killed in Iraq. As he went to and from the cathedral yesterday, his motorcade was met with anti-war protesters.

Foreign policy experts say what happens in Iraq after the elections there is likely to determine how well Mr. Bush's second term goes.

White House aides said that in the upcoming State of the Union speech, Mr. Bush will outline what has become a bold post-election agenda. Aides said Mr. Bush will call for the overhaul of Social Security and the entire tax code, limits on lawsuits, and a controversial "guest-worker" program for foreigners who want to work in America.

As for other tasks ahead, Mr. Bush must name a director for national intelligence, a potentially powerful post that has been created in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to improve intelligence sharing within the government.

Ms. Pelosi said she was dispirited by the prospect of dealing with Mr. Bush's proposals and fighting what she called the "destructive" agenda of "extremist Republicans."

In the Senate, Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) also used the word "extreme" when referring to Republican proposals.

But Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, who is the Senate Democrats' new leader, told Mr. Bush in a telephone call that he hopes they can work together.

He was optimistic about such prospects after listening to Mr. Bush's inaugural speech.

"There are many areas where we can find common ground," Mr. Reid said.

"I look forward to leading the Democratic caucus and working personally with the President and my Republican colleagues to find ways we can keep our commitments to our troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and to keep Americans safe by winning the war on terror," Mr. Reid said.

"One of our immediate tasks must be to put our nation's fiscal house in order," he said. "And there is much work to be done to strengthen education, and expand access to quality, affordable health care."

Contact Ann McFeatters at:

amcfeatters@nationalpress.com

or 202-662-7071.



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