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Bush Offers Human Touch for His Middle-Class Tax Cut Plan

By Terry M. Neal
THE WASHINGTON POST -- NEW ORLEANS

Two days after acknowledging that he hadn’t done enough to sell his tax cut plan to the American people, George W. Bush set out Thursday to do just that, introducing what his campaign described as a typical middle-class family that would benefit from his tax cut.

Yet even as he returned to the tax cut theme that had dominated his primary campaign, Bush continued to roll out new spending initiatives. Thursday afternoon here at Dillard University, a small, private, predominantly black school, he announced a proposal to boost federal funding by $600 million over five years for historically black colleges and institutions that serve large Hispanic student populations.

In his first event of the day, Bush introduced the Bechac family of Mandeville, La., as proof that his tax cut plan is a more effective vehicle than Vice President Al Gore’s plan to help working families. Andrew Bechac, 33, a teacher and high school football coach, supports his family on $40,000 a year. He and his wife, Margaret, stood beside Bush holding their daughters Meredith, 4, and Camille, 1.

“Somebody asked me today on the plane, ’You know the polls said people, hardworking people, don’t want tax relief,’ ” Bush said, glancing at Andrew Bechac. “And I mentioned that, and I think your reaction was to laugh out loud.”

The young father responded on message: “We all want tax relief, especially for my family and for middle America around the country. We really need this plan, and we really need the tax benefits that will come from this plan.”

The event’s strategic purpose was to put a human face on Bush’s plan to cut taxes by $1.6 trillion over 10 years and draw explicit contrasts to Gore’s less ambitious, $500 billion tax cut plan. Bush also sought to beat back the Gore campaign’s efforts to portray the Republican’s plan as little more than a financial boondoggle to benefit the rich.