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Bush Defiant, But Restrained With Press

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

NPR's David Greene was in the hour-long session with the president.

DAVID GREENE: One of the first questions for the president came from Terry Hunt of the Associated Press. He brought up how lawmakers are abandoning the president's war policy.

TERENCE HUNT: Mr. President, you're facing a rebellion from Republican - key Republican senators.

GREENE: And Hunt asked how the president was trying to keep Republicans with him. Mr. Bush responded calmly.

GEORGE W: I presume you're referring to friends of mine like Lugar, Senator Lugar, Domenici?

HUNT: Yeah.

BUSH: These are good, honorable people. I've spoken to them and I listened very carefully to what they have to say.

GREENE: Wendell Goler from Fox News stayed on Iraq and asked about some of the criticisms of the president. Shouldn't he have sent more troops from the beginning? Didn't he misjudge the level of violence? And shouldn't Mr. Bush have put more pressure on the Iraqi government? Goler finished with this...

WENDELL: Why should the American people feel you have the visions for victory in Iraq, sir?

BUSH: Those are all legitimate questions that I'm sure historians will analyze.

GREENE: Here he was talking about the conviction of former White House aide Lewis Libby.

BUSH: It has been a tough issue for a lot of people in the White House and it's - it's run its course and now we're going to move on.

GREENE: He called on one reporter, then the next, until there was some confusion.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

BUSH: Unidentified Man: Thank you, Mr. President.

BUSH: No, not you. Michael.

(SOUNDBITE OF OVERLAPPING VOICES)

BUSH: Unidentified Woman: Yes.

BUSH: Like the new hall - I should have been more gentle?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BUSH: Do we ever use kinder and gentler? No.

GREENE: He was suggesting that perhaps the newly renovated press briefing room was bringing out a different side of him, maybe gentle, maybe just more reflective. He was asked about his political troubles and he actually sounded like he was soul-searching.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

BUSH: You know, I guess I'm like any other, you know, political figure - everybody wants to be loved, just sometimes the decisions you make and the consequences don't enable you to be loved. And so when it's all said and done, Ed, when you ever come down and visit the old, old tired me down there in Crawford, I will be able to say I looked in the mirror and made decisions based upon principle, not based upon politics. And that's important to me. Thank you all for you time. I loved being here at this new building. Thank you.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Can we talk to you about the al-Qaida intelligence report, please?

GREENE: Please? Even please from a reporter would rarely get the president to come back and take more questions, but this time...

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

BUSH: What was that? This is amazing.

RADDATZ: I know, I know.

BUSH: The new me. The al-Qaida intelligence report.

GREENE: The question was about a new government report suggesting al-Qaida is growing in strength. Mr. Bush said his government is on top of it.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

BUSH: We're working to make sure that we continue to keep the pressure on al-Qaida, but no question, al-Qaida is dangerous.

GREENE: And that was the last question. In fact, Mr. Bush warned this whole business of taking an extra question wouldn't last.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

BUSH: I mean this is just like an aberration; in other words...

RADDATZ: It's over next time.

GREENE: David Greene, NPR News, Washington.

MONTAGNE: And you can hear more highlights from President Bush's news conference and NPR's special coverage at npr.org. You'll also find a summary of the White House's report card on Iraq. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.