WASHINGTON – President Bush said Thursday that he believes he made the right decision to invade Iraq and thinks voters will not deny him a second term even if they disagree with the war.
With the number of U.S. casualties expected to reach 1,000 well before the election, Bush said, "The president has to make hard decisions. My job is to confront problems not pass them on. And the American people have seen me make the hardest of decisions. That's just going to have to be a part of their decision-making process."
He made his comments in an interview with USA Today.
Separately, he told The New York Times that he did not believe his Democratic opponent had lied about his time in Vietnam. The group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (search) has aired advertisements challenging John Kerry's (search) account of his service, and claiming Kerry lied about circumstances surrounding his war medals. Kerry has accused Bush of using the group as a front to run a smear campaign.
"I think Senator Kerry should be proud of his record," Bush said. "No, I don't think he lied."
Bush also said in the interview that he made a "miscalculation of what the conditions would be" after U.S. troops went to Iraq.
Public opinion initially favored Bush's decision to go to war but, after months of casualties and chaos, the public is evenly divided on the subject now.
In the USA Today interview, Bush was asked why he is staying in politics.
"There's a lot of my friends who come and bass-fish with me. They don't say it out loud, I know they're thinking it: Why?" Bush said. "And the answer is because the stakes are high. Because there is more work to be done to make the world a freer and more peaceful place. It is essential that America lead in the 21st century in order to defeat the ideologues who use terror as a weapon, in order to secure the homeland, but also in order to spread liberty. I know what needs to be done, I see clearly where we need to go and I want to spend four years leading toward that goal. And I believe the American people will give me that opportunity," he said.
On other points, Bush said:
— He stands by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld despite two reports criticizing the Pentagon's management of Iraqi prisons.
— The campaign for the White House "really doesn't seem that ugly to me" despite the furor over political ads by outside groups attacking Kerry's war record.
— The most disappointing thing about his four years in office has been his inability to change the "harsh environment" in Washington.