(1st Add: Includes comments from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and DNC Chairman Howard Dean.)
(CNSNews.com) - President Bush says he fully understands that if the American people think he doesn't have a plan for victory in Iraq (as Democrats have been saying), they won't support the war effort.
So on Wednesday, Bush once again explained the stakes -- stressing how victory in Iraq is vital to U.S. national security.
At a White House press conference, the president said America's goals remain the same - to establish an Iraqi government that can sustain itself, govern itself, and defend itself. But he said the methods of achieving those goals are flexible and depend on "dynamic events."
In response to a reporter's question, President Bush said the war in Iraq is different from the World War II, because in Iraq, America is not facing a nation-state as it did in the last century.
Instead, the U.S. is facing "extremists and radicals" who kill innocent people to achieve political objectives. Bush called the war in Iraq an ideological conflict -- between "moderate, reasonable people" and those who "can't stand freedom."
Bush said those who enjoy the blessings of liberty must help the moderates succeed.
"Because otherwise, we're looking at the potential of...a world in which radical forms of Islam compete for power; a world in which moderate governments get toppled by people willing to murder the innocent; a world in which oil reserves are controlled by radicals in order to extract blackmail from the West; a world in which Iran has a nuclear weapon.
"And if that were to occur, people would look back at this day and age and say, 'What happened to those people in 2006? How come they couldn't see the threat to a future generation of people?'
"Defeat will only come if the United States becomes isolationist," and refuses to protect itself and refuses to help those who seek peace and freedom, Bush said.
The president admitted it's a hard struggle, but he said "absolutely" America is winning.
He said he will send more troops to Iraq if Gen. Casey says he needs them to achieve victory, adding that he has "great faith" in Casey to give the best advice.
Bush again rejected the idea of a fixed timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal, saying such a timetable would mean defeat. "You can't leave until the job is done," he said, adding that "our job is to get the job done as quickly as possible."
He said withdrawing before the job is done would "embolden extremists."
President Bush also said other nations are watching the United States to see if America is genuine in its commitment to moderation and democracy. "It's a serious business," he said. "And that's why I say it's the call[ing] of this generation."
Asked if the coming election will be a referendum on Iraq, President Bush said he thinks the election will boil down to two things: who has a plan for economic growth (keeping taxes low, he said); and who has a plan to protect the American people.
Bush said if the U.S. succeeds in Iraq, the country will be more secure, and if it doesn't succeed, the nation will be less secure.
Democrats 'dancing in the end zone'
President Bush said he fully expects Republicans to "win" the midterm elections. "We're organized," he said. "We've got a fantastic grassroots organization to turn out the vote."
He noted that "Republicans are manning the phones, putting up yards signs -- and "showing up" to vote absentee.
He joked that some Democrats, reporters and pundits are "dancing in the end zone" before scoring any points -- celebrating an election victory even before voters go to the polls.
The president said he's enjoying the campaign. "And from my perspective, our people are ready to go out there and vote our candidates back in[to] power," he said.
Dean: Iraq strategy 'feeding terrorism, not fighting it'
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the Bush administration's policy on Iraq, "like Iraq itself, is in complete disarray."
"One day, the administration calls for a timetable, the next day Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki objects to it. One day, our senior military leaders indicate more troops may be needed, the next day the president discounts that option," said Reid in a statement.
"One day, it's stay the course, the next day it's change the course. It is increasingly clear that the president does not know what to do to stop the escalating violence in Iraq and that his so-called 'National Strategy for Victory in Iraq' has failed," Reid added.
"Not surprisingly, the American people have had enough of this administration's costly mistakes and politically motivated misstatements. They know it's long past time for the president to admit his plan is not working and to truly change course," Reid concluded.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said the administration's policy on Iraq is "feeding terrorism, not fighting it."
"Unfortunately, the President made it clear that he intends to stay the course with his permanent commitment to a failed strategy in Iraq. What the President doesn't seem to understand is that this is not a political crisis. This is a foreign policy crisis that requires more than adapting his rhetoric in response to falling poll numbers as Election Day nears," said Dean in a statement.
"Our troops, their families and the American people deserve better. We want to defeat the enemy in Iraq and keep America safe. But, the Bush Administration's failed Iraq policy is feeding terrorism, not fighting it," added Dean.
"Democrats offer a new direction in Iraq that acknowledges the facts on the ground and includes a phased redeployment of our troops so we can better fight and win the war on terror," Dean said.
Subscribe to the free CNSNews.com daily E-Brief.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.