CLAYTON, Mo. — During a fundraiser for a Republican senator, President Bush accused Democrats of waving "the white flag of surrender" with proposals that would bring the troops home from Iraq and insisted that he will keep combat forces fighting as long as they are needed to achieve victory.
Offering a spirited defense of his national security policies, Bush also said there was "no excuse" for newspapers to disclose a secret government program that tracked millions of financial records in search of terrorist suspects.
Bush said the program had been a vital tool in the war on terrorism when it was reported last week in the media.
"There can be no excuse for anyone entrusted with vital intelligence to leak it, and no excuse for any newspaper to print it," Bush said.
Bush's statement, made at a political fundraiser, won a standing ovation from the Republican faithful who paid nearly $1 million to hear him speak.
With opposition to the war threatening to hurt the GOP in this fall's congressional elections, Bush gave an impassioned plea for voters to reelect Republicans who had supported his national security policies.
He repeatedly gestured to emphasize his points, and at several points his voice rose to a shout.
"Make no mistake about it, there's a group in the opposition party who are willing to retreat before the mission is done," Bush said.
"They're willing to wave the white flag of surrender. And if they succeed, the United States will be worse off, and the world will be worse off."
Last week, the Senate overwhelmingly rejected a resolution by Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.), that would have pulled all U.S. troops out of Iraq over the next year. Only 13 senators supported it, while 39 supported a more moderate measure that would have urged the administration to start withdrawing troops by year's end.
"The stakes are vital, and it's important that Missouri send a United States senator who understands that retreat is not an option for the United States of America," Bush said at the fundraiser for Missouri Sen. Jim Talent.
The finance tracking program was revealed first last week by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. The newspapers reported that Treasury officials, beginning shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, had obtained access to an extensive international financial database -- the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT.