Washington Post: ‘President Aims to Revisit Social Security After Recess’

President Aims to Revisit Social Security After Recess
Also, Plans Laid Out for Somber 9/11 Remembrance

By Anushka Asthana and Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 9, 2006; A04

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Sept. 8 -- President Bush said this week he would like to revisit Social Security reform next year and said he personally approved the U.S. visit of Iran's former president, as he prepared to address the nation to mark the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The White House has requested network television time for the Oval Office address, which is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. on Monday. All four major broadcast networks have agreed to air the president's remarks.

"This is not a political speech. There are not going to be any calls to action for Congress," said White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. "It will be a reflection of what September 11th has meant to the president and to the country, the realities that it has brought to all of our attention, and how we can move forward together to try to win the war on terror."

In one of a series of interviews he is conducting to mark the anniversary, Bush told the Wall Street Journal that he would like to tackle Social Security after the midterm elections, when he "will be able to drain the politics out of the issue." The interview will appear in this weekend's Journal.

Bush failed last year to persuade Congress to overhaul the New Deal-era program, including the creation of private investment accounts and a reduction of guaranteed benefits for future retirees. His staff has said he is exploring the issue, but his comments to the Journal were the most definitive that he wanted to try something again -- although he did not say exactly what.

The president also said he personally approved this week's visit of former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami, a trip that has drawn some criticism in conservative circles.

"I was interested to hear what he had to say," Bush said. "I'm interested in learning more about the Iranian government, how they think, what people think within the government."

Bush's commemoration of the anniversary of the attacks will begin Sunday afternoon in New York, where he will lay a wreath at Ground Zero before taking part in a prayer service.

On Monday, he will begin his day with breakfast with emergency service personnel in New York, then will participate in a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the time that the first plane slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, and then a ceremony with New York first responders.

From there, Bush will travel to Shanksville, Pa., where just after noon he is scheduled to participate in a wreath-laying. Later that afternoon, he will take part in a similar ceremony at the Pentagon.

The anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack in the nation's history also will inspire a brief moment of bipartisan comity. Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) will be among those joining Bush at the Pentagon ceremony. That evening congressional leaders from both parties will lead a commemoration of the national tragedy with speeches, a moment of silence and patriotic songs from the steps of the Capitol.

White House aides announced plans for Monday's speech on a day that Bush headlined closed-door fundraisers for GOP Senate candidates in Michigan and Missouri.

Bush's motorcade passed a small demonstration from protesters in Michigan holding up signs that read "President You've Let Us Down" and urging him to meet with the chief executives of the nation's struggling automobile manufacturers. A planned meeting between Bush and the heads of the nation's leading automakers has been repeatedly delayed, and deputy press secretary Dana Perino said the session will be held after the November election to "avoid getting it mired in politics."

Fletcher reported from Washington. Staff writer Michael Abramowitz in Washington contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company