WASHINGTON – Trying to manage his public relations campaign on Iraq, President Bush (search) sat for interviews Monday with five news organizations that rarely get one-on-one time with him, and tried to offer a bright view of a newly liberated Iraq.
Meanwhile, his diplomatic team introduced on Tuesday on a new U.N. resolution (search) to encourage broader international support in the decrepit country.
Bush said he feels that the true picture of postwar Iraq (search) isn't getting through "the filter" of the mainstream press, and blames that for what polls show is a steady decline in public confidence that things are going well in Iraq.
Bush told the five organizations much of what he has told every other news outlet -- that he is in charge of foreign policy.
"The person who is in charge is me," he told Tribune Broadcasting, a Chicago Tribune-owned network.
Bush also told local news providers that a peaceful Iraq is in this nation's interest and rushing the reconstruction and democratization effort there is a prescription for failure. He added that leaving Iraq now would be a terrible mistake.
"The definition of when we get out is when there is a free and peaceful Iraq based upon a constitution and elections, and obviously we'd like that to happen as quickly as possible," he said. "But we are mindful of rushing the process which would create the conditions for failure."
Bush added that the coalition cannot bail out now on "the overwhelming number of Iraqis who do not want Saddam Hussein and-or his thugs to return."
Bush's one-on-one interviews with five broadcasting operations will reach about 60-80 affiliates in markets across the country. He spoke with reporters who have access to the White House and work stations in the press quarters, but to those who don't generally get to travel with the president.
Talking to a new set of reporters is just part of the White House public relations campaign. Bush also is carefully choosing his audiences at speeches, for instance when he spoke last week to National Guardsmen in New Hampshire. The president has also sent his subordinates out.
On Friday, Vice President Dick Cheney found a friendly audience in the conservative Heritage Foundation. There, Cheney cast the war in Iraq as a direct result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and of Iraq's ties to Al Qaeda, which critics say the administration has overstated.
The PR campaign coincides with this week's vote in Congress on the president's $87 billion emergency supplemental budget request for Iraq and Afghanistan. Democrats have conceded that the president will likely get the money with few restrictions. But Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said new words on Iraq are not what's needed.
"The debate about the $87 billion is, I mean this sincerely, is less about the $87 billion than about the competence of the administration's handling of the peace in Iraq. If, for example, there were no bombings going on, the $87 billion would go through like a hot knife through butter," Biden said.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was also on the trail last week, accusing the media of missing the story by focusing on the fact that the United States has not yet found chemical and biological weapons in Iraq. She said weapons inspectors have found plenty to prove that Iraq had been violating U.N. Security Council resolutions.
However, much of the discussion in the media last week was not on Rice's speech but on the controversy over her selection to oversee the Iraq Stabilization Group, which was formed to help "cut through some of the bureaucracy and the red tape" and assert more control over policy.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld publicly grumbled that he wasn't told about the decision in advance. He later said he doesn't believe the new group will infringe on his authority. Lawmakers added an amendment to the emergency budget request that bars Rice from making spending decisions.
On Sunday, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged Bush to take control of his quarrelsome foreign policy team.
"The president has to be president," Lugar said. "That means the president over the vice president, and over these secretaries" of state and defense.
On the international front, the White House introduced changes to the U.N. draft resolution that would get more countries to pick up some of the load in Iraq.
For the first time, the new resolution would confer sovereignty on the Iraqi Governing Council. The IGC and its ministers are "the principal bodies of the Iraqi interim administration, which will embody the sovereignty of the state of Iraq during the transitional period until an internationally recognized, representative government is established," reads paragraph four of the new draft.
Though the United States and United Kingdom have always considered the IGC the sovereign power in Iraq, the new provision would put the international community's recognition of the IGC's sovereignty in writing.
"Some are particularly wound up about that," one diplomatic source said on Monday. "Some are not."
The resolution also sets a mid-December deadline for the IGC to lay out its timetable and program for drafting of a new constitution and holding elections. The previous resolution had invited them to do so but had not set a deadline. The goal of the new language is to convince skeptical Security Council members that sovereignty is being returned to Iraq on a timetable governed by the Iraqi people.
The new draft resolution does not move much on a broader role for the United Nations, not going further than saying it will play a "vital role" in helping shape the political and economic future.
The U.N. role has been a sticking point for some members and one source said the new paragraph is "as muddy as before" and unlikely to generate any additional support. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) said he's not sure how much more support the resolution will win, but he is "grateful, as I said, to the drafters who have indicated that my role will kick in when the circumstances permit."
Fox News' Jim Angle and Wendell Goler and The Associated Press contributed to this report.