President Bush speaks to National Guard troops Wednesday in the western state of Idaho as he continues to try and reverse falling public support for the war in Iraq. Mr. Bush says Iraqi leaders are making progress toward a new constitution.
President Bush will spend about two hours meeting individually with family members of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq during his visit to a military base near the Idaho capital, Boise. He will then speak to National Guard troops at the Mountain Home Air Force Base, thanking them for what he says is their selfless dedication to making the world more secure and Iraq more democratic.
"I'll remind the people that we're making progress on two fronts - a political front. The Iraqi people are working hard to reach a consensus on their constitution. It's an amazing process to work," he said. "First of all, the fact that they're even writing a constitution is vastly different from living under the iron hand of a dictator.
The president has been quick to counter criticism of the delays in Iraq's constitutional process, saying that he is optimistic about positive developments as democracy unfolds in the country.
Public opinion polls show that most Americans do not share the president's optimism about Iraq. An Associated Press poll says less than 40 percent of Americans approve of the way he is handling the war in Iraq, a war in which nearly 2,000 Americans have been killed.
In a speech to veterans Monday, Mr. Bush said America owes it to those fallen servicemen and women to finish the task that they gave their lives for by winning the war on terrorism.
Hundreds of protestors demonstrated near Monday's speech and are expected in Idaho on Wednesday as well. Much of the anti-war movement is now focusing its attention on a vigil outside the president's ranch in Texas which was begun by the mother of a serviceman killed in Iraq.
President Bush told reporters Tuesday that while he sympathizes with that mother's loss, he says she does not represent the views of many military families who he has met with.
The president has consistently refused to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, saying those who are calling for an immediate withdrawal are advocating a policy that he says would weaken the United States.
Mr. Bush says American forces will stay on the offensive against terrorists, fighting them abroad so they do not have to face them at home.
"We'll defeat the terrorists; we'll train Iraqi forces to defeat the terrorists," added Mr. Bush. "In the long run, we'll defeat the terrorists through the spread of freedom and democracy.
After his speech to National Guard troops in Idaho, President Bush returns to his Texas ranch where he is the fourth week of a five-week vacation.