For the second time in two days, President Bush appealed directly to the American people to support his strategy on the war in Iraq.
In a morning news conference, the president reaffirmed that progress had been made in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar and that there wasn't a civil war in Iraq.
"The terrorists haven't given up," he said. "They're tough-minded. They like to kill. There's going to be more tough fighting ahead. … Yet we're making progress, and that's important for the American people to understand."
He also praised Iraq's leaders for working toward creating a government of competing factions. "It's an indicator that Iraq's leaders appreciate the import of Iraq's national unity," Bush said.
The news conference was part of the White House's push to speak to Americans about the war in a series of speeches and town hall meetings. One senior administration official told ABC News that it was also part of the White House effort to do more frequent news conferences. This was the president's second full-blown news conference of the year and his 23rd solo news conference since taking office.
In addition, Bush touted the strength of the economy, noting that nearly 5 million new jobs had been created in the United States -- more than in Japan and the European Union combined -- and that unemployment was down and household net worth up.
"The growing economy is a result of the hard work of the American people and good policies here in Washington," he said, adding that he would work to make tax relief permanent, cut spending, and cut the deficit by 2009.
He also reiterated his push for reducing America's dependence on foreign oil, encouraging the use of hybrid cars and advanced ethanol fuels.
Bush also defended his staff from some Republican critics who feel he needs to shake up his team of advisers following recent missteps. "I'm satisfied with the people I surrounded myself with," he said.
In several recent events, Bush has taken questions from audiences that were not as solidly pro-Bush as the ones he faced during the campaign in 2004. He has come under sharp questioning on Medicare, Iraq, Iran, and the nuclear deal with India, and while he often answers questions indirectly -- focusing instead on his own talking points -- he seems more comfortable in that setting and environment than if he were giving a speech at a podium.
Bush defended his decision to go to war and supported Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who has been criticized for the handling of the war.
"I don't believe he should resign," he said. "He's done a fine job. Every war plan looks good on paper until you meet the enemy."
But he stressed that the war is necessary. "My attitude about the defense of this country changed on September the 11th when we got attacked," he said. "I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people."
The world gave Saddam Hussein a choice, he said. "When he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I made the difficult decision to remove him," he said, "and the world is better for it."
Bush said al Qaeda had made it clear that Iraq would be the central front in its plots against America and to overthrow modern governments. "I think it is very important to have a president who listens to what the enemy says," he said.