President Bush says pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq prematurely would put Americans at greater risk of another terrorist attack. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, opposition Democrats have approved legislation that includes a timetable for a troop withdrawal because they say that would make the Iraqi government more accountable for its own security.
President Bush took his standoff with Congress to America's Midwest Thursday in a question-and-answer session dominated by the war in Iraq.
He told people at an Ohio high school that legislation passed by the Democrats-controlled House and Senate is a mistake because imposing a timeline for troop withdrawal limits the options of military commanders on the ground.
Mr. Bush says leaving Iraq before the government there can handle its own security would embolden radicals and extremists by confirming what he says is their sense that the United States is incapable of long-term commitments.
"It would confirm their commitment that they think we are soft," he said. "Let me put it to you that way. That's what they think. It doesn't necessarily mean that the United States has to kind of muscle-up for the sake of muscling-up, that's not what I am trying to say."
"But I do believe it is risky to have an enemy that has attacked us before to not take the United States seriously for the long run," he added.
The president again sought to more directly connect the war in Iraq with security at home, saying leaving prematurely would result in violence spilling beyond Baghdad and beyond Iraq's borders to threaten Americans.
The president says he will veto any legislation that has a timetable for troop withdrawal. The Senate and House measures passed by close votes, making it highly unlikely Democrats can find the two-thirds majority needed to over-ride the promised veto.
Mr. Bush met with Democratic leaders at the White House Wednesday to discuss the standoff.
Following those talks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats will not back down on their demands for a troop withdrawal.
"We are in a position where we believe we are doing the right thing for the people of this country, a majority of the Congress, and the military," he said.
A public opinion poll by the newspaper USA Today says 57 percent of Americans favor a timetable for troop withdrawal.
Democrats say President Bush is trying to politicize the issue by accusing them of not supporting the troops. They say their legislation gives the president all the money he is asking for.
President Bush says Democrats are trying to score political points. He wants them to send him their bill as soon as possible so he can veto it and get legislators back to work on a spending bill without a deadline for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.