Seizing the Moment

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Wednesday, June 14, 2006; 2:10 PM

President Bush's message to the Iraqi people in his stealth trip to Baghdad yesterday was: "Seize the moment."

That's also what Bush himself is doing, capitalizing on a rare streak of good news to try to shift the political momentum that, at least up until now, had been going nowhere but down.

This morning, Bush took to the Rose Garden for an hour-long press conference where he danced around tough questions while continuing his campaign to persuade people that things in Iraq are looking up.

Here's the transcript and video .

Bush's opening statement, in unusually blunt terms, laid out the massive challenges ahead in Iraq, including not only terrorism but sectarian strife and rival militias, an overall lack of security, serious economic problems, corruption and human rights violations.

But the jet-lagged president made it clear that nothing is going to get in the way of his optimism.

Many of his responses consisted largely of the familiar talking points. For instance, he repeated three separate times today, as if this was a new concept, that Iraq is "part of the war on terror."

But there was a renewed emphasis on success. "The American people have got to understand I believe we're going to succeed. That's why we're there. And my message to the Iraqis is, we're going to help you succeed. My message to the enemy is, don't count on us leaving before we succeed. My message to our troops is, we support you 100 percent. Keep doing what you're doing. And my message to the critics is, is that we listen very carefully and adjust when needed to adjust."

Bush used variations on the word "succeed" 31 times -- in that way answering what he said is the core question Americans have about Iraq: "I think the people want to know, can we win?"

Here's coverage from The Washington Post and the various wire services .

Among the other highlights and lowlights of the press conference:

* Bush continued to stonewall on Karl Rove's involvement in the leaking of a CIA operative's identity, saying he was relieved by the special prosecutor's decision not to indict Rove and that he trusts Rove -- but using the specious excuse of the ongoing criminal case against Scooter Libby to dodge questions about whether Rove's conduct met his ethical standards.

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