AFP: President George W. Bush, facing crises in the Middle East and Iraq and nuclear disputes with Iran and North Korea, said Monday he was using “all assets” at his disposal to protect the United States. by Olivier Knox
WASHINGTON, Aug 14, 2006 (AFP) – President George W. Bush, facing crises in the Middle East and Iraq and nuclear disputes with Iran and North Korea, said Monday he was using “all assets” at his disposal to protect the United States.
Bush’s comments came as he made a week-long push on national security and the economy one month before the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist strikes and three months before key legislative elections.
“We live in troubled times, but I’m confident in our capacity to not only protect the homeland, but I’m confident in our capacity to leave behind a better world,” he said during a visit to the Pentagon.
Bush met with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and was to have lunch with what the White House described as experts on Iraq before heading to the US State Department for talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
“It’s very important for the American people to know that we’re constantly thinking about how to secure the homeland, protect our interests and use all assets available to do our jobs,” said the president.
Bush, back from an abbreviated vacation on his Texas ranch, was to lead a national security council and homeland security council briefing on Tuesday at the national counter-terrorism center just outside Washington.
White House spokesman Tony Snow said last week that the meeting was “in no way related” to the foiled airline bomb plot in London, stressing: “This has been on the books for quite a while.”
Despite the heavy focus on national security, Bush will also tackle other issues likely to loom large over the battle for control of the Senate and the House of Representatives, like the economy.
On Wednesday, he will travel to Pennsylvania to tour iconic motorcycle giant Harley-Davidson’s largest manufacturing facility, which employs some 3,200 people, according to the company’s Internet site.
On Thursday, Bush will sign pension legislation and head to the presidential retreat at Camp David, where he will meet a day later with top economic advisers and make remarks on the economy.
White House officials privately express frustration that they have not received more credit for good growth, while acknowledging that soaring gas prices are hurting them in the arena of public opinion.
Bush has typically held similar meetings in August in his ranch in Crawford, Texas, but his annual vacation there was shorter this year ahead of November 7 elections to decide control over the Senate and House of Representatives.
Many in his Republican party worry that the unpopular war in Iraq may cost them their majorities in both chambers amid fears that the country may be sliding into civil war three years after the invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.
Opposition Democrats, meanwhile, have increasingly called for a quick withdrawal from the war-torn country and leveled a barrage of criticism at Bush for the way the war has been waged.
Bush’s Monday meetings came at the dawn of a ceasefire in Lebanon, brokered by the United States and France in a UN resolution that the UN Security Council approved unanimously over the weekend.
“Since the cease-fire this morning, there have been no rocket attacks, no defensive movements. There have been two minor military skirmishes between Israeli and Hezbollah forces,” Snow told reporters.