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Bush Defends Policies at Town Hall Meeting


President Bush is defending his foreign and domestic policies as he seeks support for members of his Republican party running for re-election to Congress later this year. Mr. Bush found a receptive audience in Louisville, Kentucky.

It was an event reminiscent of the president's own re-election bid.

In Louisville, he appeared at a community meeting where he took questions from local residents on topics ranging from the war on terrorism, to care for the elderly. As he did during the 2004 presidential campaign, Mr. Bush opened the session with a strong defense of his record, both at home and abroad.

He was then asked if Americans can expect the war on terrorism to end with the kind of dramatic surrender seen by previous generations at the conclusion of World Wars I and II. The president said this conflict is very different, and victory will come gradually.

"The long term victory will come by defeating the hopelessness and despair these killers exploit with a system that is open and hopeful. And the only such system is a free system," he said.

There was also a question about his controversial decision to allow government agents to monitor telephone calls and e-mails between people in the United States and al-Qaida connections abroad without court authorization. For the first time, the president said he would go along with a congressional inquiry.

"There will be a lot of hearings to talk about that, but that's good for democracy. Just so long as the hearings, as they explore whether or not I have the prerogative to make the decision I make, doesn't tell the enemy what we're doing. See, that's the danger," he said.

President Bush has made numerous appearances over the last six weeks or so to boost public support for his policies. But the stop in Louisville was the first to incorporate this casual campaign-style format.

It is a community where voter concerns about Iraq loom large and the local congressional race is being dominated to a great extent by foreign policy concerns.

Congresswoman Anne Northrop - a rising star in the Republican ranks - is facing an unexpectedly strong challenge this year. Her Democratic Party opponent, Andrew Horne, is an Iraq war veteran who has said the Iraqi invasion was a big mistake.