WASHINGTON – A day after President Bush went before the nation reinforcing his determination to stay the course in Iraq, lawmakers split along party lines in assessing whether Bush was effective.
"Our progress has been uneven — but progress is being made," Bush told a television audience as well as troops in the hall at Ft. Bragg. N.C., home to the the Army's elite 82nd Airborne Division (search).
"We have more work to do, and there will be tough moments that test America's resolve. We are fighting against men with blind hatred — and armed with lethal weapons — who are capable of any atrocity ... They are trying to shake our will in Iraq — just as they tried to shake our will on September 11, 2001. They will fail," he said.
Democrats faulted Bush and said he wasn't being honest with the American people.
"The president has to understand when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you had to do is stop digging," Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., told FOX News.
But Republicans said Bush did a good job of stating what was at stake in Iraq and they said Bush was right in not laying out deadlines for when U.S. troops would come home.
"That timetable will be dicated by events on the ground. I think that timetable will succeed," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who acknowledged that the work ahead "will be long, hard and tough."
Congress on Wednesday will look further into the Iraq question with several hearings and events.
— Sen. John Warner (search), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is holding a morning hearing to review the reappointment of Peter Pace to the grade of general and to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to replace Gen. Richard Myers.
— Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House International Relations Subcommittee (search) on the Middle East and Central Asia, is having an afternoon briefing with Richard Jones, the senior adviser to the secretary and coordinator for Iraq, on that country's transition to democracy.
— Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., vice-chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, and Jack Reed, D-R.I., of the Senate Armed Services Committee (search), are set to discuss the situation in Iraq as well as criticize the administration for its expected shortfall in the Veterans Affairs budget for this fiscal year.
Warner gave high marks to Bush for his speech Tuesday night and said he would use his hearing to give a chance to send a warning to lawmakers and others who would speak disparagingly about the effort in Iraq.
"We need to knock off this business of quagmires" and saying who is a patriot and who is not, said Warner, R-Va., suggesting that the troops on the ground in Iraq are hearing filtered news that would suggest to them that they are not getting the support they need from some back home.
"I think we're going to take it very seriously to watch our rhethoric, those of us in Congress, and also members of the administration in their rhetoric to make certain what we say can not be misconstrued [or] in any way shows a lack of support," Warner said.
In his nightime address, Bush laid out an extensive check list of accomplishments in Iraq as well as goals to achieve.
Bush argued that Iraq is the latest battlefield in the War on Terror and cited comments made by Usama bin Laden that the war will be fought and won or lost in Iraq.
"Among the terrorists, there is no debate," Bush said. "Hear the words of Usama bin Laden: 'This Third World War … is raging' in Iraq. 'The whole world is watching this war.' He says it will end in 'victory and glory or misery and humiliation,'" Bush said.
The president's remarks came after public opinion have shown lagging support for the mission in Iraq and a fatigue from news of daily terror attacks aimed at the Iraqi people and coalition troops.
A FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll taken earlier this month found that Iraq was by far the issue Americans considered the most important for the federal government to address. In the poll, 25 percent cited Iraq and Saddam Hussein as the top issue; the No. 2 issue was the economy with 13 percent listing it as the most important.
In the poll, Bush had the approval of 48 percent of Americans while 43 percent disapproved of his job performance.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi criticized Bush for not outlining benchmarks and timetables to be reached to measure progress in Iraq, and she accused the president of trying to exploit the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks for political gain.
"The president's frequent references to the terrorist attacks of September 11 show the weakness of his arguments. He is willing to exploit the sacred ground of 9/11, knowing that there is no connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
"Iraq is now what it was not when the war began — a magnet for terrorism — because the president invaded Iraq with no idea of what it would take to secure the country after Baghdad fell. The insurgency took root in the unstable conditions that have now existed in substantial parts of Iraq for far too long," she said.
"In his attempt to mitigate growing concern about his disastrous Iraq policy, the president has failed to address the most significant problems surrounding this ill-conceived, poorly planned and falsely-justified war," added Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., in a written statement.
Former presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark (search) took a more measured approach in his criticism, saying on the strategic level, the president recited some points that needed to be said but Bush left several questions unresolved.
"He didn't really explain why car bombings have gone up despite our effective operations or why the insurgents are coming in increasing numbers or why the insurgency is still the same strength. These are all the elements that create doubt and uncertainty in the minds of the American public," Clark said.
"I said this was an elective war ... Saddam wasn't a part of 9/11, Saddam didn't have WMD to threaten America, but now that we're there, we have to succeed," Clark said, adding that the war in Iraq is a great recruiting tool for terrorists who want to suggest America is the evil invader.
Responding to calls to bring the troops home, Bush said he recognized that Americans want them to return as soon as possible, but that a premature withdrawal will only invigorate terrorists and demoralize Iraqis.
"Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message to the Iraqis — who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done. It would send the wrong message to our troops — who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission they are risking their lives to achieve. And it would send the wrong message to the enemy — who would know that all they have to do is to wait us out. We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed — and not a day longer," he said.
FOX News' Sharon Kehnemui Liss contributed to this report.