BUSH: The mission is for the...
The mission is there to be a democratic Iraq, where they have elections to elect their government. That's the mission, to help them achieve that. And that's important. And that's necessary work.
And, you know, the tactics to achieve that are, one, we help provide security to the Allawi government as they move toward elections.
Obviously there are people there that are still trying to disrupt the election process. They can't stand the thought of a free society in the midst of a part of the world that's just desperate for freedom.
These people don't like freedom. You know why? Because it clashes with their ideology. We actually misnamed the war on terror; it ought to be the struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies, who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world. And...
No, that's what they do. They use terror to -- and they use it effectively. Because we've got good hearts. We're people of conscience; they aren't. They will cut off a person's head like that, and not even care about it.
I mean, that's why I tell you, you can't talk sense to them. I mean, maybe some think you can; I don't. I don't think you can negotiate with them.
SUAREZ: ... four-year projections?
BUSH: Let me finish. Let me finish, please.
Thank you, though.
BUSH: We will stay there until the job is completed and our commanders on the ground tell us.
See, I think it's very important for those of us in the political arena to listen to the commanders on the ground. Tommy was a great commander on the ground, and I listened to him. And now I'll listen to General Casey and Ambassador Negroponte as to when they think we've achieved our mission.
The second stage, by the way, Ray, is -- he's trying to get me to put a timetable out there. I'm not going to do it, see. That's part of the -- and then when the timetable is busted, they'll say, "I told you."
SUAREZ: Well, we got to try.
"A" for effort, anyway.
It's still dangerous there, no question about it. The dynamics have changed, however, because Prime Minister Allawi is now in charge of the interim government. He's a tough, strong guy, who believes that Iraq can be free and democratic. And that's an important step.
He's willing to step up and say clearly to the Iraqi people, "Let's reject this violence and terrorism that is threatening a better way of life."
He's the fellow who woke up in bed one night in London to confront an axe-wielding thug -- thugs from Saddam Hussein that tried to hatchet him to pieces, axe him to pieces. And so, he's seen firsthand what tyranny can do, and he's made a decision, obviously, to take risk on behalf of a free society.
The key to success, to answer your question about when, is how quickly the Iraqis are trained and prepared to take action themselves. The ultimate success of our venture in Iraq, which is a free and democratic country, will depend upon how quickly we can help the Iraqis defend themselves. The will is there, and now they must have the training and equipment to provide them what is necessary to do their duty in a free society.
One of the biggest fears many Iraqi citizens have is that we're not a country of our word. People don't want to take risks. They understand that at this point in time, if a vacuum were created, anarchy would reign and there would be mayhem and bloodshed. And they're fearful that the United States will once again say something and not mean it.
I say "once again" because you might remember, at different times during Iraqi history, they believed they heard something, in terms of U.S. support, and it didn't happen, and then there was, you know, a lot of death as a result of unfulfilled expectations.
We've got to stay with them until they achieve the objective.
MARTIN: Mr. President, you said, quote, "Quotas are an unfair system for all," unquote, with regards to your opposition to affirmative action.
BUSH: No, no, no. Whoa, whoa, whoa. With regard to my opposition to quota systems.
MARTIN: To quotas, OK. But I've never heard you speak against legacy.
Now, the president of Texas A&M, Robert Gates, said that he would not use race in admissions, and then he later said he would not use legacy.
If you say it's a matter of merit and not race, shouldn't colleges also get rid of legacy?
Because that's not based upon merit. That's based upon if my daddy or my granddaddy went to my college.
BUSH: Yes, yes. I thought you were referring to my legacy.
MARTIN: That's why I allowed you to go ahead and bring it out.
BUSH: Yes. Yes.
Well, in my case, I had to knock on a lot of doors to follow the old man's footsteps.
No, look, if what you're saying is, is there going to be special treatment for people -- we're going to have a special exception for certain people in a system that's supposed to be fair, I agree, I don't think there ought to be.
MARTIN: So the colleges should get rid of legacy?
BUSH: Well, I think so, yes. I think it ought to be based upon merit. And I think it also be based upon...
And I think colleges need to work hard for diversity. Don't get me wrong. Don't get me wrong. You said against affirmative action, is what you said. You put words in my mouth.
What I am for is...
MARTIN: I just read the speech, Mr. President.
BUSH: What speech?
MARTIN: In terms of when you came out against the Michigan affirmative action policy...
BUSH: No, I said I was against quotas.
MARTIN: So you support affirmative action, but not quotas?
BUSH: I support colleges affirmatively taking action to get more minorities in their school.
MARTIN: That's a long headline, Mr. President.
BUSH: I support diversity.
I don't support quotas. I think quotas are wrong. I think quotas are wrong for people. And so do a lot of people.
MARTIN: But just to be clear...
MARTIN: ... you believe that colleges should not use legacy?
BUSH: I think colleges ought to use merit in order for people to get in, and I think they ought to use a merit system like the one I put out.
MARTIN: Thank you very much.
BUSH: Thank you all. Thanks for having me.