President Bush says there is no need to hold anyone in his administration accountable for what has happened in Iraq because the voters have already spoken.
“We had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 elections,” Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post for Sunday’s editions. “The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me.”
In the interview, conducted Friday aboard Air Force One, Bush set no schedule for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and said he will not ask Congress to expand the size of the National Guard or regular Army.
The session with the Post was one of a series of media interviews the president has held leading up to his inauguration to a second term on Thursday.
Bush said he will not press for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and has no plans to cut benefits for the approximately 40 percent of Social Security recipients who collect monthly disability and survivor payments.
He urged Americans to be patient as Iraq moves toward creating a democratic nation in place of a dictatorship.
“On a complicated matter such as removing a dictator from power and trying to help achieve democracy, sometimes the unexpected will happen, both good and bad,” he said. “I am realistic about how quickly a society that has been dominated by a tyrant can become a democracy … I am more patient than some.”
He declined to second recent remarks by Secretary of State Colin Powell that troop levels in Iraq could be reduced this year.
“The sooner the Iraqis are … better prepared, better equipped to fight, the sooner our troops can start coming home,” he said.
Rather than propose an expansion of the National Guard and regular army, the president said, “What we’re going to do is make sure that the missions of the National Guard and the reserves closely dovetail with active army units, so that the pressure … is eased.”
Bush said he was pleased with the pursuit of Osama bin Laden, blamed for the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. “I will be more pleased when he’s brought to justice, and I think he will be,” he said.
He acknowledged that U.S. standing has diminished in the eyes of some countries and said he has asked Condoleezza Rice, his nominee to replace Powell, to launch a diplomacy campaign that “explains our motives and explains our intentions.”
He predicted most Muslims will eventually see America as a beacon of freedom and democracy, but said: “There’s no question we’ve got to continue to do a better job of explaining what America is all about.”
The Post reported that after saying in the interview he probably would not lobby for passage of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, White House spokesman Scott McClellan telephoned the paper on Saturday to say the president wanted to clarify his position.
The spokesman said Bush was “willing to spend political capital” but believes it will be virtually impossible to overcome Senate resistance until the courts render a verdict on the Defense of Marriage Act that attempts to block gay marriage by federal statute rather than a constitutional amendment.