Bush fields questions about war and other administration policies
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – After initial reservations, President Bush said Wednesday that he isn’t bothered by congressional hearings into his domestic spying program as long as they don’t aid the enemy.”That’s good for democracy,” Bush said, provided the hearings don’t “tell the enemy what we’re doing.”In the days after the secret wiretapping without warrants was revealed, Bush cautioned against hearings, saying that congressional leaders had been privately consulted and that he had worked within the law to authorize eavesdropping on Americans with suspected ties to terrorists.Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., has promised hearings on the issue, and the Senate Intelligence Committee could also investigate. House Democrats have asked their Intelligence Committee for hearings, and Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee plan to hold a forum on the monitoring program’s legal ramifications on Jan. 20.In Louisville, Bush hosted a casual, town hall-type event reminiscent of his campaign stops. Bush paced, with microphone in hand, like a talk show host in front of signs that left no doubt about the administration’s message of the day: “Winning the War on Terror.”Bush’s approval rating bumped up slightly to 42 percent in December, but it remains low, with 40 percent of Americans approving and 59 percent disapproving of the way he’s doing his job, according to the latest AP-Ipsos poll conducted the first week of January.After his opening remarks, Bush fielded about 10 questions from the audience of invited groups. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the questions were not prescreened. Bush said no topics were off-limits, and even invited a question about Iran, but nobody asked one.Instead, the audience wanted to know about the war, terrorism and a host of domestic issues, including health care, education and immigration.Bush acknowledged differences over Iraq. “Whether you agree with me or not, we’re doing the right thing,” Bush said, adding that terrorists or insurgents fighting democratic reform in Iraq are “not going to shake my will.”A 7-year-old boy’s question – “How can people help on the war on terror?” – gave Bush an opening to score some political points against his critics and try to keep Democrats from using Iraq as an issue in this year’s midterm elections.”It’s one thing to have a philosophical difference – and I can understand people being abhorrent about war. War is terrible,” Bush said. “But one way people can help as we’re coming down the pike in the 2006 elections is remember the effect that rhetoric can have on our troops in harm’s way, and the effect that rhetoric can have in emboldening or weakening an enemy.”It was the second day in a row that Bush warned his critics to watch what they say or risk giving comfort to U.S. adversaries. On Tuesday, before a gathering of Veterans of Foreign Wars, he said Democrats who do will suffer at the ballot box in November.Bush appeared in a Kentucky district where Andrew Horne, an Iraqi war veteran who opposed the invasion, is hoping to unseat Republican Rep. Anne Northup, a strong Bush supporter.None of the questions Bush received at the Kentucky International Convention Center were combative. Viewpoints were different across the street, where about 200 noisy demonstrators protested Bush’s policies.Renee Woodrum of Louisville said, “When I think it can’t get any worse and then I hear some other scandal or some corrupt thing that’s going on or more soldiers are dying, and I can’t believe it.””I just don’t know how much longer America can afford to have George Bush as our president. I think the war is causing more hatred toward America and encouraging terrorism.”Vail, Colorado
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