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Bush Says Economic Meltdown Forced Aggressive Intervention

President Bush says the ongoing financial crisis has forced him to endorse aggressive government intervention in numerous economic sectors in spite of his core, free market principles. President Bush restated his desire to prevent the U.S. auto industry from going bankrupt, while stressing that federal intervention should be temporary.

President Bush came into office eight years ago with an agenda of low taxes and limited government. But, in a wide ranging discussion in Washington, Mr. Bush admitted that the economic meltdown of the last year has forced him to set some of those principles aside.

The latest example is a rescue package the administration is contemplating for troubled U.S. automakers. An earlier attempt at a rescue plan passed the U.S. House of Representatives, but the measure failed in the Senate.

Mr. Bush noted that the U.S. auto industry employs millions of people, and that it is on the brink of collapse. "I am worried about a disorderly bankruptcy and what it would do to the psychology and the markets," he said.

Mr. Bush said he intends to act, but has yet to decide how best to do so.

Earlier this year, Congress approved a $700-billion financial rescue package. Mr. Bush said he disliked the idea of such massive government expenditure and intervention, but that he had been warned of a possible economic catastrophe worse than the Great Depression if no action were taken.

The president was speaking at a gathering of the free market policy organization, the American Enterprise Institute. He was asked to respond to accusations from Democrats that his economic agenda sowed the seeds of the financial crisis.

"I'm looking forward to the true history of this financial crisis being written," said Mr.Bush. "No question part of the crisis came about because of excesses in lending in the housing market. My administration early on expressed concern about implicit government guarantees in the mortgage industry, in Fannie and Freddie."

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government-sponsored mortgage insurers that have benefited from the financial rescue package.

Mr. Bush added that he understands the frustrations of ordinary Americans whose tax dollars are propping up corporations because of what he described as the "excesses on Wall Street."

The president, whose term ends next month, also expressed disappointment that free trade pacts with Colombia and Panama have not been ratified during his time in office.