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Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

Times of testing and trial reveal a number of truths. Character becomes evident. Priorities are defined. Hearts are revealed for what lies beneath the surface. Leaders emerge, as well as those willing to follow with wisdom, discernment and honesty. President Bush called this time in history â??a time of consequence.â?? Never easy, choices made now, as he told our nation in the annual State of the Union address, define Americaâ??s future at home and abroad.We choose courage in the ongoing battle against terrorism and tyranny. Extensive knowledge about those who would eradicate freedom lay behind the Presidentâ??s decisions about terrorist surveillance and troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is correct to trust military decisions to military commanders--the ones with first-hand experience on the battlefield. We must stand firm in promoting freedom. Terrorists have darkened the skies of our nation once this century, we cannot allow this to happen a second time.We choose long-term solutions to help Americans at home. Affordable health care decisions face families and society. Improvement is occurring system-wide with the new Medicare Part D prescription drug program, and incrementally, with improvements in health care technology. As a long-time proponent of telehealth programs that increase health care access for rural Idahoans, Iâ??m encouraged by the Presidentâ??s enthusiastic support of these technologies.Idaho, a pioneer in the field of what has traditionally been called alternative energy, has already answered one challenge presented by the President. Starting with nuclear power over fifty years ago, the Idaho National Lab sets the standard for cutting edge nuclear research and development. Idahoâ??s universities and colleges are engaged in important ethanol research and developing fuel from biomass and wind farms are being establishedâ??all renewable resources. Idahoans, particularly agri-business, know the detrimental effect of high energy costs on business viability and profitability. Substantially reducing foreign energy dependence demonstrates a commitment to security, affordable energy and a healthier environment. We choose stronger immigration enforcement and border protection. An effective guest worker program that does not grant amnesty is both possible and desirable.Recent economic choices have steadily improved our economy. Job growth is robust and financial markets are strong. In order continue creating opportunities for families to achieve and maintain financial freedom, itâ??s essential to eliminate ineffective government programs and support those that truly benefit people. In the Senate Budget Committee, we will be reviewing the Administrationâ??s recommendations in order to present a fiscally-responsible budget to taxpayers. President Bush discussed entitlement programs, creating a bipartisan commission to examine Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. We must periodically re-evaluate and improve critical programs funded by hard-earned tax dollars. This is simply good stewardship of scarce resources. In the Senate Finance Committee, I look forward to working on these issues and the future findings of this Commission. We choose the tried and true tenets of a healthy economy including free-flowing resources in the marketplace. This happens when income stays in taxpayerâ??s pockets rather than in government coffers. Temporary tax cuts must be made permanent, especially those on capital gains and dividends which are vital to seniors looking to maintain their quality of life in retirement. These cuts, as well as the reconciliation bill pending in the Senate, must be passed into law. We have the right and responsibility to make wise decisions in â??times of consequence.â?? As the President said, our choices matter. We each have an active role to play as our nationâ??s history unfolds. Itâ??s a mistake to believe that anyone is inconsequential to this process and I look forward to your ongoing input and dialogue about our future. WORD COUNT: 597