ROSWELL — President Bush on Thursday drove home points from his State of the Union address as he enjoyed a friendly southeastern New Mexico crowd.
Bush spoke to an audience the Secret Service estimated at 1,800 in Roswell’s Convention and Civic Center, a talk billed as remarks on the war on terrorism, but one that covered a broad range of topics.
He 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, who he said had made the nation grateful and proud.
The Taliban has been destroyed, 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 destructions with 12 years of United Nations diplomacy attempting to do the same.
“The people of the world trust the word of America,” he said to whoops and hollers from the crowd.
Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher said he and Undersheriff Doug Bowman were at Bush’s appearance to show their support for the president.
Hatcher called Bush’s speech “excellent.”
“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,” he said.
“I’m grateful for his respect for law enforcement and the military. We’ve got a president who stands behind us 110 percent,” said Bowman.
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.
Carrie Burrow, 12, of Roswell, said she waited in line for two hours to see Bush, even though she had been fighting “a bug” since the night before.
“I wanted to see the president,” she said.
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.