President Bush is trying to counter low poll numbers by refocusing public attention on Iraq and his efforts to improve the U.S. economy. Democrats say the president's plans to overhaul the U.S. pension program will hurt small farmers.
White House officials say the president is launching a campaign to sharpen the focus on two of the biggest concerns for Americans, the war in Iraq and the economy at home.
Coming off a week of public opinion polls that show some of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency, Mr. Bush used his weekly radio address to remind Americans of the link he has made between the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
"We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens," said President Bush. "Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror."
The latest CBS News / New York Times public opinion poll shows only 37 percent of Americans approve of the president's handling of the war in Iraq. That's down from 45 percent in February.
The poll says two thirds of Americans feel the country is going in the wrong direction, and just over half disapprove of the way Mr. Bush is doing his job.
The president says he does not pay attention to poll numbers, and remains focused on his agenda. Nonetheless, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan says the president will start talking more about Iraq in the coming weeks. On Friday, the president meets with Iraq's prime minister, and the following Tuesday, he gives a speech on the one-year anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq.
Mr. Bush used his Saturday radio address to begin sharpening that focus at a time when Americans are increasingly concerned about continuing U.S. casualties. More than 1,700 American troops have died in Iraq in just over two years.
The president says it is not an easy mission, and will not be accomplished overnight, but he will settle for nothing less than victory.
"Our troops are fighting these terrorists in Iraq, so you will not have to face them here at home," he said. "We mourn every one of these brave men and women who have given his or her life for our liberty. The terrorists know they cannot defeat our troops, so they seek to weaken our nation's resolve."
The president is also trying to refocus public attention on an improving U.S. economy and his plans to reform the federal retirement program, known as Social Security. After four months of White House campaigning for changes to Social Security, the CBS News / New York Times poll shows only one quarter of Americans approve of the president's plan.
In the Democratic radio address, North Carolina Congressman Bob Etheridge says the plan would hurt small farmers, who depend more heavily on Social Security, because most fund their own retirement instead of relying on private sector employee accounts.
The president wants to allow younger workers to invest part of their Social Security taxes in financial markets, in the hopes of gaining a higher rate of return.
Mr. Bush appears to be losing legislative momentum on Social Security, with Congressional Democrats largely united in opposing private accounts. Some members of the president's own party say the upfront cost of switching to private accounts is too high at a time of growing deficits.