Reactions Vary to Bush Press Conference

Dennis Nelson, eating a slice of pizza at an American Legion Hall here, heard just what he wanted to from President Bush (searchTuesday night: The United States will not be deterred in Iraq.

Nelson, a 51-year-old Vietnam (search) veteran and post commander, said he was pleased Bush stood firm on Iraq in his prime time news conference, despite increasing instability there and polls showing that fewer Americans approve of the way he's handling the war.

"He's given us a plan, what we're going to do, and we're not going to let anything stop us," said Nelson, a Republican. "I was proud of the president that he would not let anything deter us from making this happen."

In bars and living room across the country, Americans tuned in to watch the president's address, which followed one of the bloodiest periods in the war with Iraq. Afterward, Bush fielded reporters' questions.

On Chicago's South Side, viewers included about 20 members of the Task Force for Black Political Empowerment (search), a political activist group that has come out against the Iraq war.

"I feel sorry for him," said A.L. Reynolds, 68, a retired businessman from Chicago who described himself as an independent. "He has not answered one reporter's question, he has not apologized, he has an arrogant attitude and he's not going to change anyone's opinion with this speech. ... I feel very sorry for him and I'm scared for us."

In Dearborn, Mich., as dozens of men participated in evening prayers at the Karbalaa Islamic Center, imam Husham Al-Husainy watched Bush's speech on a small television in his office.

The Iraqi-born Shiite cleric said Bush has good goals to bring democracy and stability to Iraq but does not appear to have earned the trust of the Iraqi people.

"What he said about the necessity to remove Saddam, that is very true, and the need to fight the terrorists, that is very true," he said. "But the way he is doing that does not always look like what is right."

Bush's speech followed fierce fighting in the predominantly Sunni Muslim city of Fallujah west of Baghdad between insurgents and American troops after a mob mutilated the bodies of American security contractors killed in a March 30 ambush.

U.S. troops have killed about 700 insurgents across Iraq since the beginning of the month. About 80 coalition troops — almost all Americans — have died in the clashes.

An AP poll last week found that 41 percent approve of Bush's performance on foreign policy issues and 51 percent approve of his handling of the war on terrorism. His standing with the public on those issues has dropped since January.

While Bush calls the war in Iraq the front line of the war on terror, an increasing number of people — about half — now say the military action in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism, not decreased it. And more people now see the possibility that Iraq could become like Vietnam, an extended military struggle with no clear resolution.

Mike Peno, 47, an engineer at a nuclear power plant, sat watching Bush in a bar and restaurant in Baton Rouge, La. He said he was disappointed.

"I really thought that he was going to tell us how he's going to handle this and I didn't hear it," Peno said. "I really question whether we're doing the right thing, being over there."

Jeff Gray, 53, who works at the car dealership and is the son of a World War II prisoner of war, said he supported Bush, "but I am scared of the road ahead because I'm scared it's going to turn into another Vietnam."

Jill Zack, an Albuquerque, N.M., Democrat and marketing manager, was skeptical, accusing Bush of changing his story.

"We went there because we were scared they had weapons of mass destruction, but now it's about Iraqi freedom," said Zack, 26. "But is that our desire or their desire?"

Buffi Hinker of Lower Township, N.J., is the wife of a New Jersey National Guardsman serving in Iraq. She was worried by Bush's references to the potential for keeping troops longer in Iraq, but also was comforted by his repeated mentions of the soldiers' families at home.

"He's willing to take a stand and to back it up, regardless of whether it's not as popular as people want it to be," said Hinker, 32, a Republican. "He understands what the families are going through."