ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Just one highway exit away from Walt Disney World, President Bush assured unemployed Americans yesterday that he feels their hurt but doesn”t support government help for the struggling tourism industry.

Paul Wong
President Bush holds a town hall meeting for about 4,000 displaced workers and business owners at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida yesterday.<br><br>AP PHOTO

He pushed Congress to “stop fussing” and pass a broad package to stimulate the economy.

“There”s nothing that hurts me more than to know as we head into the holiday season that some of our citizens and some of their families hurt because they”ve been laid off” in the wake of September”s terrorist attacks, Bush said, microphone in hand as he answered questions at a town hall forum.

He recalled the last time he was in Florida, on the morning of Sept. 11, and what went through his mind when the first plane hit New York”s World Trade Center: “I used to fly myself, and I said, “Well, there”s one terrible pilot.””

As he strolled a convention center stage with microphone in hand, fielding questions from 19 people in the audience, Bush posed one to himself setting up a chance to defend his intention to try noncitizen terrorist suspects in secret military tribunals.

“In the court of law, there would be all kinds of questions that might compromise our ability to gather incredibly important intelligence to prevent the next attack from happening to America,” Bush said.

“It seems like to me that the president of the United States ought to have the option to protect the national security interests of the country and therefore protect America from further attack.”

In an hourlong performance that was, by turns, both passionate and playful, the president cracked jokes about his mother”s cooking, said he dreams of peace for Israel and ruled out government aid to hotels and restaurants suffering from the drop in tourist travel after the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings of four commercial airplanes.

One man in the audience pointed out that the Bush administration gave airlines billions of dollars of help after Sept. 11.

Could the hospitality industry get similar grants or loans? “To answer your question directly, no,” Bush said.

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