President Bush says U.S. troops will win the war in Iraq because it is part of the broader fight against terrorism. In his first full-scale news conference in four months, Mr. Bush also defended his next choice for America's highest court.
President Bush says he appreciates the reception that White House counsel Harriet Miers has received on Capitol Hill. A day after nominating her for the Supreme Court, Mr. Bush defended the choice from some within his own Republican Party who are questioning the former-Democrat's conservative credentials.
"I picked the best person I could find," said President Bush. "People are going to be amazed at her strength of character and her intellect. But the tone will be set by the people who conduct the hearings and give the speeches and run the television ads. When it is all said and done, the American people are going to know what I know, though: this woman deserves to be on the bench."
The president has known Ms. Miers for more than 10 years and says he is confident she will not legislate from the bench and will strictly apply the Constitution and laws as written. That strict "constructionist" approach is important to social conservatives who believe American judges are interfering too much in issues better left to state and local authorities.
Ms. Miers has no judicial experience and has spent most of her career in commercial litigation. That lack of a paper trail indicating her opinions on divisive social issues including abortion and privacy rights has drawn concerns from both Democrats and Republicans that they do not yet know enough about her.
President Bush says he does not recall ever discussing the issue of abortion with Ms. Miers. He says conservative critics should watch her hearings, after which he says he thinks they be as impressed with her as he is.
Asked if he made a more moderate choice to avoid a confirmation fight with Senate Democrats, the president said it is up to them to decide whether they will give her a fair hearing.
"It is up to them to decide whether or not they want to reject all the special interest money that seems to want to try to influence the outcome of certain issues here in Washington, DC. It is up to them if they want to bring dignity to the process," he added. "I will assure you this: Harriet Miers will bring dignity to the bench."
President Bush also discussed the war in Iraq, where he says U.S. troops are continuing to make progress to train Iraqi security forces to better control their own country.
"More and more Iraqis are able to take the fight to the enemy, and that is important to achieve our goal. And the goal is for a stable, democratic Iraq that is an ally in the war on terror," said Mr. Bush.
President Bush says he is encouraged by what he calls the increasing size and capability of Iraqi security forces with 100 battalions now operating throughout the country.
Pentagon officials last week said only one of those battalions is able to fight without U.S. support. The top U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey, told Congress that the number is down from three battalions over the past few months because standards for the highest readiness rating have become more rigorous.
President Bush says America has got to win in Iraq and will win in Iraq because success there is important to America's future security.