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Bush Addresses Economic Concerns - 2002-01-14

President Bush is on a two-day, three-state tour to draw attention to his economic policies. But the start of the trip was overshadowed by concerns about his health following a fainting spell on Sunday.

The president moved quickly to put those concerns to rest.

At his very first stop - a factory in Illinois that produces farm equipment - the president put his prepared speech aside for a minute and talked about his brief health scare.

With a broad grin on his face, he talked about the fainting spell, which occurred after he choked on a pretzel. The president said from now on, he will heed his mother's advice. "If my mother is listening: "Mother, I should have listened to you... always chew your pretzels before you swallow," he said.

The only lingering reminders of the incident are a scrape on his left cheek, and a bruise on his lower lip. President Bush assured his audience that his health is just fine, and then quickly changed the subject. "I'm feeling great . . . I am so honored to be here . . . thank you very much for letting me come to this fantastic plant," said President Bush.

Mr. Bush said the purpose of his trip was to highlight steps that must to be taken to create more American jobs and boost the economy. He began by talking about the war on terrorism and domestic security. "The first condition to make sure people can find work is to make sure our nation is secure - secure against an enemy that wants to attack us," he said. "That starts with having a robust, active strong homeland security for our country."

President Bush then called on Congress to pass several of his domestic priorities, including enhanced administration authority to negotiate trade deals. "I am confident that what this nation needs is to level the playing field and have trade that will create jobs all across America," said President Bush.

The House of Representatives has already agreed to give the president the ability to negotiate trade pacts secure in the knowledge they will not be changed by Congress. However, the Senate has yet to agree. Democratic leaders in the Senate are also holding up action on a package of tax cuts and other incentives designed to stimulate the economy. The President told the 1,500 or so workers and supporters at the John Deere factory, that he will not back down on taxes. "When the economy slows down, one of the best things we can do is let people keep their own money so they can spend it," he said. "If the economy slows down, one of the best answers is tax relief."

The president's itinerary for this two-day trip has him following the path of farm goods from field to port. He began along the Mississippi River in the Midwest ... and will complete his tour at the port of New Orleans, the last stop for many American agricultural goods headed for foreign markets.