The president also said he looked forward to working with the new Congress, which bolstered Republican majorities in both chambers in the election, to rework the tax code, fix Social Security, fight frivolous lawsuits, and continue education reform.
As he did in Wednesday’s victory speech, the president pledged to reach out to those who voted against him.
“The campaign over, Americans are expecting a bipartisan effort and results. I will reach out to every one who shares our goals,” he said.
When asked whether he has considered who he would name to fill a possible Supreme Court vacancy, the president referred to statements he made during the campaign trail: “a justice who strictly interprets the law, rather than one guided by personal opinion.”
The president said he would also continue to work to spread freedom around the world and in Iraq, regardless of any perceived “image problems” America may face around the world.
“There is a certain attitude in the world by some that says that it’s a waste of time to try to promote free societies in parts of the world,” he said.
“Remember, I went to London to talk about our vision of spreading freedom throughout the greater Middle East and I fully understand that that might rankle some and be viewed by some as folly.”
He said he agreed with Tony Blair that Middle East peace should be a high priority.
“It is very important for our policy in the Middle East to have a peaceful Palestinian state,” he said.
A reporter later relayed rumors that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat — a leader the president has refused to negotiate with — had died and Mr. Bush said “God bless his soul.” Later reports said that Arafat was still alive, but in a coma at a Paris hospital.
A personal moment came when a reporter asked how the president’s father, who lost his own bid for reelection, reacted to his son’s accomplishment. President Bush said that after a long election night, he told his father to go to sleep at 3 a.m. “It wasn’t clear at that point in time, so I never got to see him face to face to watch his, I guess, pride in his tired eyes as his son got a second term,” the president said. “I did talk to him, and he was relieved.”
The president said he would push the agenda he was elected on. “I earned capital during this election, and now I intend to spend it,” he said. He added that he would like to see the return of the line-item veto, which gives the executive the power to block parts of bills.
The president refused to speculate on one of the major outstanding issues of his second term, the makeup of his staff and Cabinet.
“I’m going to Camp David this afternoon with Laura (Bush) and I’ll begin the process of thinking about the Cabinet and the White House staff,” Bush told the reporters. “We’ll let you know at the appropriate time when decisions have been made,” he added.