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After launching two wars, President Bush (news - web sites) said on Tuesday he wanted to be a "peace president" and took swipes at his Democratic rivals for being lawyers and weak on defense.
With polls showing public support for the war in Iraq (news - web sites) in decline, the Republican president cast himself as a reluctant warrior as he campaigned in the battleground state of Iowa against Democrat John Kerry (news - web sites) and his running mate, former trial lawyer John Edwards (news - web sites). Bush lost the state in 2000 by only a few thousand votes.
"The enemy declared war on us," he told a re-election rally. "Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president."
Bush has called himself a "war president" in leading the United States in a battle against terrorism brought about by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America.
"Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president."
“MEET THE PRESS WITH TIM RUSSERT”
INTERVIEW WITH PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH
THE OVAL OFFICE, FEBRUARY 7, 2004
BROADCAST ON NBC’S “MEET THE PRESS”
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2004
PLEASE CREDIT ANY EXCERPTS TO NBC’S “MEET THE PRESS”
Tim Russert: And we are in the Oval Office this morning with the President of the United States. Mr. President, welcome back to “Meet The Press.”
President Bush: Thank you, sir.
Russert: On Friday, you announced a committee, commission to look into intelligence failures regarding the Iraq war and our entire intelligence community. You have been reluctant to do that for some time. Why?
President Bush: Well, first let me kind of step back and talk about intelligence in general, if I might.
[Three more nonresponsive paragraphs]
Again, I repeat to you, the capacity to have good intelligence means that a president can make good calls about fighting this war on terror.
Russert: Prime Minister Blair has set up a similar commission in Great Britain.
President Bush: Yeah.
Russert: His is going to report back in July.
President Bush: Right.
Russert: Ours is not going to be until March of 2005, five months after the presidential election.
President Bush: Yeah.
Russert: Shouldn't the American people have the benefit of the commission before the election?
President Bush: Well, the reason why we gave it time is because we didn't want it to be hurried.
[Three more nonresponsive paragrahs]
I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign-policy matters with war on my mind. Again, I wish it wasn't true, but it is true. And the American people need to know they got a president who sees the world the way it is. And I see dangers that exist, and it's important for us to deal with them.
Russert: Will you testify before the commission?
President Bush: This commission? You know, testify? I mean, I’d be glad to visit with them. I’d be glad to share with them knowledge. I’d be glad to make recommendations, if they ask for some. I'm interested in getting — I'm interested in making sure the intelligence gathering works well.
Listen, we got some fine — let me — let me, again, just give you a sense of where I am on the intelligence systems of America. First of all, I strongly believe the CIA is ably led by George Tenet. He comes and briefs me on a regular basis about what he and his analysts see in the world.
Russert: His job is not in jeopardy?
President Bush: No, not at all, not at all.
Russert: But there are lots of madmen in the world, Fidel Castro …
President Bush: True.
Russert: … in Iran, in North Korea, in Burma, and yet we don't go in and take down those governments.
President Bush: Correct, and I could — [while you simmer on the fact Bush just said he could take down Iran, North Korea and Burma, let's advance to his assessment of his administration] ...In other words, the policy of this administration is to be — is to be clear and straightforward and to be realistic about the different threats that we face.
Russert: You do seem to have changed your mind from the 2000 campaign. In a debate, you said, "I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called 'nation-building.'"
President Bush: Yeah.
Russert: We clearly are involved in nation-building.
President Bush: Right. And I also said — let me put it in context. [Bush continues but does not put that in context.]
Russert: But this is nation-building.
President Bush: Well, it is. That's right, but we're also fighting a war so that they can build a nation. [Three more paragraphs explaining how it's America's job to engage in nation building.]