WASHINGTON – President Bush will give a "major speech" to the nation Monday night to educate Americans on the "growing threat posed by Iraq," U.S. officials said Friday.
The president will deliver the address from Cincinnati, Ohio, where he will be after a weekend of New England Republican fund-raising drives. The speech is not so grand that the White House has sought network television time to cover it, but is major enough that White House officials hope the president will be able to talk directly with Americans about the threat he sees from Iraq.
One official said privately that the president will make news at the event, but that he will not be announcing an imminent war.
Ohio was chosen as the speech site because it is a state with no hotly contested gubernatorial or senate races, and the White House is sensitive to accusations of politicizing the war.
The backdrop of the speech is the congressional debate on a resolution that gives the president the authority to use force against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. House Democratic leaders and the White House worked out a resolution earlier in the week that passed the House International Relations Committee Thursday and goes to a full House vote next week.
Some reservations remain, however, among Senate Democrats who fear the authority given to the president by the resolution will be too broad. The measure written in the House is expected to pass in the Senate as well.
The speech is also an attempt to put pressure on the United Nations Security Council, which is debating whether to create a new toughly worded resolution allowing weapons inspectors to renew inspections for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
The head of the U.N. weapons inpections team Hans Blix was in Washington Friday to meet with Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Blix arranged for resumed U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq, but under the terms of the original resolutions of 10 years ago, which give Saddam some flexibility in inspections of his presidential palaces.
The United States and Britain want much tougher language in a new resolution and want to persuade Russia and France to back that language with the threat of force. Russia and France are two of the permanent five veto-holding members of the Security Council, and they have expressed reservations about the need for a new resolution, or one that goes too far in calling for force.
The president left Washington Friday to spend the weekend raising money for Republicans and to see family members at his parents' home in Kennebunkport, Maine. He was attending a luncheon fund-raiser in Boston Friday for Mitt Romney, who is running for governor there.