Bush visits Roswell
President Bush, left, embraces U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., after finishing his speech. The president’s appearance concluded a two-day, three-state swing that began in Ohio and passed through Arizona. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth.
ROSWELL — President Bush enjoyed a friendly crowd at Roswell’s Convention and Civic Center on Thursday as he hammered home points from this week’s State of the Union address.
Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher was among the supporters.
“I’m glad we have a president with backbone, who’s not afraid to make difficult decisions, regardless of how it affects his chances for re-election,” Hatcher said after listening to Bush’s 40-minute speech. The president’s appearance concluded a two-day, three-state swing that began in Ohio and passed through Arizona.
Bush spoke to an audience the Secret Service estimated at 1,800. The talk was billed as remarks on the war on terrorism, but it covered a broad range of topics.
The president encouraged optimism about the national economy, which he admitted had taken a nose dive following the recession of 2001 and the nation’s march to war. But, he said, Congress and his administration had “boldly” passed what he called “a stimulus package” of tax cuts.
“An economic stimulus package is a fancy word for giving people their money back,” he said.
Bush warned that limits on the marriage tax and death tax are about to run out, saying his tax-cut package should be made permanent.
He alluded to Enron and other corporate scandals, saying CEOs must tell the truth to their employees and shareholders and those who don’t must face the consequences.
He made a pitch for a temporary worker program, saying he opposes amnesty for illegal aliens, but that an “open and honest” temporary worker program would be good for the economy and would allow those responsible for patrolling the nation’s border to concentrate on “true threats,” such as illegal drugs, contraband and terrorists.
He called the Patriot Act an “essential part of the war on terrorism” and called for its renewal.
Bush drew the loudest applause from the Roswell audience when he praised the members of the military, the National Guard and their families at home; he said they had made the nation grateful and proud.
The Taliban has been destroyed, he said, Afghans have written a new constitution and al-Qaida leaders are hiding in caves. The country and the world are safer because the U.S. has deposed Saddam Hussein, he said.
He contrasted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s recent decision to expose and destroy his weapons of mass destruction with 12 years of United Nations diplomacy attempting to get Saddam Hussein to do the same.
“The people of the world trust the word of America,” he said to whoops and hollers from the crowd.
Sheriff Hatcher summarized Bush’s speech as “excellent,” and Undersheriff Doug Bowman agreed with him.
“I’m grateful for his respect for law enforcement and the military. We’ve got a president who stands behind us 110 percent,” Bowman said.
Jordan Strebeck, a Clovis High School senior and student body president, also made the trip to Roswell. He said for someone who is interested in politics, Bush’s speech was “one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.”
“I think he really cares about America and the people of America,” he added.
Strebeck’s friend Jason Seefeld, also a CHS senior, said Bush’s stands on the war on terror and home-front security impressed him.
“It was a once-in-a lifetime experience for us to come here and hear what he had to say,” Seefeld said.
Roswell resident Dottie Edwards said this was only the second time a sitting president has visited Roswell. Ronald Reagan visited the city in 1984. She said what she liked best about Bush’s speech was his honesty about the issues.
Bush shared the podium with New Mexico Military Institute superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Beckel, U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and 150 NMMI cadets, five local firefighters, three local police officers, one state police officer and a Chavez County deputy. He praised the officers as “first responders.”
In introducing Bush, Domenici repeated Bush’s comment in his state of the union address that “America doesn’t need a permission slip to defend itself.”
“When others simply didn’t know what to do after the horrible events of Sept. 11, our president knew. He acted while others hesitated and wrung their hands. The world and the nation are safer because he took action,” Domenici said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.