Page 2 of 2   <      

Bush Admits Mistakes in Iraq, Defends Tactics

But Bush said his critics have every right to question his decisions on the war in Iraq.

"I fully understand people are going to think back and [ask] could you have done something different or not different. And that's fair. And it's worthwhile," he said. "And we still have members of Congress who are coming in -- and they should -- coming in and said, 'Mr. President, have you thought about this' or 'You going to do that?' "

Later, Bush said: "I base a lot of my foreign policy decisions on some things that I think are true. One, I believe there's an Almighty. And, secondly, I believe one of the great gifts of the Almighty is the desire in everybody's soul, regardless of what you look like or where you live, to be free."

Addressing the immigration debate in Congress, Bush said a temporary guest worker program with "tamper-proof" identification cards would "dismantle" the human smuggling business.

Bush, calling himself an "old border governor," said smugglers have been "stuffing human beings in the back of trucks."

"We are a nation of immigrants," said Bush, who was governor of Texas before being elected president. " . . . We are a nation of law. By the way, you can be a nation of law and compassionate at the same time."

A House bill seeks to criminalize their presence in the United States and fund construction of a 700-miles fence along the 3,000-mile U.S.- Mexico border.

A bill proposed by the Senate Judiciary Committee would give illegal immigrants a chance at attaining permanent residency and even citizenship, which Bush supports. But some senators oppose that approach.

Bush said illegal immigrants should be giving an opportunity to "get in the back of the line" and apply for U.S. citizenship after they have paid a fine and met other conditions, such as learning English.

Asked by a member of the audience if, as a former resident of Midland, Tex., he knows any illegal immigrants, Bush said: "No, I don't believe I know anybody who is in Texas illegally. Had I hired somebody who had been here illegally, I guarantee you'd have read about it."

<       2

© 2006 The Washington Post Company