LITTLE ROCK – President Bush is kicking off another series of speeches to counter opposition to the war in Iraq, Americans' impatience with the rising U.S. death toll and anxiety about possible terrorist attacks.
Bush delivers the first speech Thursday to the annual American Legion convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. The appearances will continue through the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and culminate on Sept. 19 when Bush addresses the U.N. Security Council.
White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said Bush would use the speeches to assess the war on terror, outline the capabilities of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups and remind Americans of steps the administration has taken to protect the nation.
It is the third time in less than a year that Bush has launched a series of speeches on Iraq and terrorism. They come at a time when his approval rate is at 33 percent in the August AP-Ipsos poll. His approval on handling of Iraq also was at 33 percent in the poll.
"At the American Legion annual meeting, the president will put the violence that Americans are seeing on their TV screens and reading in their papers into a larger context," Perino told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Arkansas for a political event. "He will acknowledge that these are unsettling times in Iraq, in Lebanon and the unsettling news about the foiled terror plot out of London."
Bush will assert that all the violence and threats are part of a "single ideological struggle" that pits the forces of freedom and moderation and the forces of tyranny extremism, she said.
He also is expected to provide an update on the security situation in Iraq, especially in Baghdad, but is not — at least in the speech on Thursday — to discuss troop levels.
Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. general in Iraq, said Wednesday that he believes Iraqi forces can take over security with little coalition support within a year to 18 months, providing an opportunity for a drawdown of U.S. forces.
Bush was to attend a closed-door fundraiser in Little Rock for Asa Hutchinson, a former congressman who is running for governor against Democrat Mike Beebe.
The fundraiser, which attracted some 800 people to the home of former pro basketball player Joe Kleine, was expected to raise an estimated $400,000 for Hutchinson's campaign and the Republican Party in Arkansas.
Before arriving in Salt Lake City Wednesday evening, Bush was stopping in Nashville to attend a $2,100-a-plate fundraiser for Bob Corker's Senate campaign.