WASHINGTON – President Bush (search) spoke to the nation about his plan to help Iraq reach a secure, democratic future amid a flurry of bad news, with attacks on coalition forces and Iraqis, graphic abuses of detainees at American-run prisons and rising criticism at home and abroad. With some polls showing the president facing his lowest support yet, Bush sought to get past the media and speak directly to voters with Monday night's speech. Associated Press writers sat with listeners in different parts of the country: a military mother at home in Indiana, diners at a suburban restaurant outside Boston, and Iraqi-Americans at a mosque in Michigan.
Edward Goldberg and Rob McElaney, two seats apart at the counter at Zaftigs Delicatessen in this usually liberal Boston suburb, glanced up only occasionally from their dinner of eggs and matzoh to take in Bush's speech on television.
After he finished, they said they felt no less sad and angry than before.
For Goldberg, 66, an investment manager, the sadness stems from what he believes is the failure of a war he once reluctantly supported, hoping it would make the world safer from terrorism.
"I don't see how we can pull off a smooth transition," Goldberg said, shaking his head.
He is particularly wary of Islamic fundamentalism (search), but he was not hopeful about the president's assurances on Iraq's future, and believes the U.S. will hand authority to the U.N. (search) as quickly as possible and pull out.
"Should we leave the country, it will be a colossal victory for the jihadist movement," said Goldberg, who voted for Bush in 2000 but said he's likely to vote against him this year.
McElaney, 38, a medical salesman, said the speech did nothing to ease his anger. "I don't feel we should have been there in the first place," he said.
As for the handover, "I don't really see it happening by the end of June," he said. "I think Spain made the right decision getting out when they did."
A third man at the counter, who wouldn't give his name, said America must accept that the Sept. 11 terror attacks were a declaration of war against the country, and America must be prepared to respond forcefully.
"I'm confused, but not so confused that I'm ready to leave Iraq," he said. "When they flew those planes into the buildings, they started a war."
The tea that Sam Bakir sipped Monday night at the Iraq Kabob Restaurant warmed him. But it was Bush's words that brought a smile to his face.
"How can I fault what he's saying?" asked the 32-year-old Iraqi-American. "What he's saying is what all Iraqis want to hear. We want the chance to elect our own leaders and write our own history after 30 years of being force-fed a fate we didn't want."
Around this heavily Arab Detroit suburb where thousands of Iraqi refugees have made their home since a 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein was crushed, Bush's comments were generally welcomed, albeit at times with skepticism.
Iraqi-Americans here said they've been lied to too often to take everything at face value, but this time, they're willing to be more trusting.
"I believe that the country will get the elections," 24-year-old Nasser Nasser said while watching Bush's speech broadcast and translated over an Arabic television station.
"He says he's going to give this and that, but I'm worried that this is all for votes," Nasser couldn't help but add, as he munched on a kabob wrapped in pita. Even so, he said the United States should remain after a new government is in place because he believes an early exit could lead to civil war.
At the Karbalaa Islamic Center, many were happy with Bush's pledges. But not all.
As the day's final call to prayer echoed in the mosque, Hadi Hadi pounded his chest in disgust, too distrustful to even watch the speech.
"Anything he says is a lie," said Hadi Hadi, 43, who had just arrived back from a visit to Baghdad. "The Americans are using means that don't rely on Iraqis. They're beginning to use the Ba'athists, those criminals, and this is a big mistake."
Yellow ribbons and American flags line the picket fence outside Sandy Arnold's rural home. Inside the brown brick house, she and her husband, Anthony, wait for word from their son, Spc. Adam Arnold, 24, who is in Iraq.
It has been two weeks since the last phone call. Arnold is worried.
But she took comfort from Bush's words — a "pep-up session," she called it.
"I think it was probably needed," said Arnold, 50, on her shirt an American flag pin that she has worn since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "There is so much negativity."
Adam was a senior in high school when he joined the Indiana National Guard, where his father spent 30 years before retiring.
Arnold watched the speech from her recliner. She was optimistic, in a measured way.
"The ordinary Iraqi citizens will maybe in time say no to these factions or help us in a way," Arnold said. "It's not going to be an instant thing. I don't think any of this is instant. It's going to take time."
She wonders if the troops really will be out of Iraq by 2005. Still, she was pleased to hear that President Bush was talking about training more Iraqi troops.
"I think that's the only way they're going to learn to take care of themselves," Arnold said.
Arnold was Bush supporter before, and that hasn't changed.
He is "making a statement we're not there to take over the country, to replace Saddam," Arnold said. "We're there to help the people. That's what America is about, the freedoms."
It was quiet in her kitchen as she made tuna salad after watching the speech. She is hoping a phone call will come soon.