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The Nation | EXCERPTS FROM PRESIDENT BUSH'S NEWS CONFERENCE

'I am willing to follow a path to victory'

December 21, 2006|From the Associated Press

On Iraq:

In the latest CBS News poll, 50% of Americans say they favor a beginning of an end to U.S. military involvement in Iraq; 43% said keep fighting, but change tactics.... Are you still willing to follow a path that seems to be in opposition to the will of the American people?

I am willing to follow a path that leads to victory. And that's exactly why we're conducting the review we are. Victory in Iraq is achievable. It hasn't happened nearly as quickly as I hoped it would have.... But I also don't believe most Americans want us just to get out now.

*

Mr. President, Lyndon Johnson famously didn't sleep during the Vietnam War, questioning his own decisions. You have always seemed very confident of your decisions, but I can't help but wonder if this has been a time of painful realization for you, as you yourself have acknowledged that some of the policies you hoped would succeed have not.

[The] most painful aspect of my presidency has been knowing that good men and women have died in combat. I -- I read about it every night. I -- my heart breaks for a mother or father or husband and wife or son and daughter.... I reach out to a lot of the families. I spend time with them. I am always inspired by their spirit. They -- most people have asked me to do one thing, and that is to make sure that their child didn't die in vain -- and I agree with that -- that the sacrifice has been worth it. We'll accomplish our objective.

*

But beyond that, sir, have you questioned your own decisions?

No, I haven't questioned whether or not it was right to take Saddam Hussein out. Nor have I questioned the necessity for the American people -- I mean, I've questioned it -- I've come to the conclusion that it was the right decision.

**

On Mary Cheney:

[Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter] Mary's having a baby. And you have said that you think Mary Cheney will be a loving soul to a child. Are there any changes in the law that you would support that would give same-sex couples greater access to things such as legal rights, hospital visits, insurance, that would make a difference, even though you ... believe that it's preferable to have one man-one woman ...

No, I've always said that we ought to review law to make sure that people are treated fairly. On the -- on Mary Cheney, this is a personal matter for the vice president and his family. I strongly support their privacy on the issue, although there's nothing private when you happen to be the president or the vice president. I recognize that. And I know Mary. And I like her. I know she's going to be a fine, loving mother.

**

On the presidential pulpit:

You said this week that your microphone has never been louder. But on some of the key domestic priorities you've talked about, particularly Social Security and immigration, your use of the presidential microphone hasn't yielded the results that you wanted. So I'm wondering, with a Democratic Congress at this point, Republicans no longer controlling things on Capitol Hill, why you think your microphone's any louder?

Microphone being loud means ... the president is in a position to speak about priorities. Whether or not we can get those priorities done is going to take bipartisan cooperation, which I believe was one of the lessons of the -- of the campaigns. I will tell you: I felt like we had a pretty successful couple of years when it comes to legislation. After all, we reformed Medicare. We put tax policy in place that encouraged economic growth and vitality. We passed trade initiatives. Passed a comprehensive energy bill.... It's been a pretty substantial legislative record.

**

On his legacy:

I keep reading that you'll be remembered only for Iraq, and I wonder what other areas you believe you're building a record of transformation you hope will last the ages.

I'm going to work hard. I'm going to sprint to the finish, and we can get a lot done. And you're talking about legacy. Here -- I know, look, everybody is trying to write the history of this administration even before it's over. I'm reading about George Washington still. My attitude is, if they're still analyzing No. 1, 43 ought not to worry about it and just do what he thinks is right, and make the tough choices necessary.

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