Responding to Bush, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said, "With all due
respect, the president just doesn't get it. We need a change in the Iraq
strategy, but with Rumsfeld running the show we'll never get it."
Bush opened the interview by saying he was pleased that North Korea was
returning to stalled nuclear talks. Although North Korea has a history of
walking away from negotiations, Bush did not express doubts about the intentions
of Kim Jong Il, North Korea's leader.
"It's his choice," Bush said. "I would hope he is sincere." He said that any
deal with North Korea would have to be verifiable.
The president said he did not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state,
even though it tested an atomic bomb three weeks ago. "Our objective is to see
they're not a nuclear weapons state," the president said.
Bush said Robert Joseph, US undersecretary of state for arms control and
international security, and R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for
political affairs, will travel through the region to talk with allies about how
to make progress.
"We're going to talk about making sure that the sanctions passed by the
United Nations are effective," the president said. "Implementation of the
sanctions will be on the table."
As for Iraq, the president expressed confidence in Prime Minister Nouri
al-Maliki despite apparent strains between Washington and Baghdad.
"I appreciate he's making hard decisions that he thinks are necessary to keep
his country united and moving forward," Bush said. "I didn't find many
differences of opinion when I talked to him. We both want Iraq to be able to
govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself. We both want there to be
benchmarks - Iraqi developed and designed benchmarks - that show the
Iraqi people and the American people that this young democracy is making
Bush said that "there's no question that October was a tough month. We lost
103 soldiers. It was a tough month because we were on the offense, the enemy was
on the offense - the enemy was trying to affect us. And it was a tough
month because of Ramadan. ... Our troops and Iraqi troops killed or captured
over 1,500 people during this period of time."
Bush refused to comment on Cheney's assertion that a "dunk in water" of
terrorist suspects was a "no-brainer" if it would save American lives. "We don't
discuss the techniques we use," Bush said.
On other questions, Bush said:
- He will send Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to Capitol Hill after the
election to determine what can be achieved in the way of overhauling Social
Security and Medicare.
- He understands the anxieties of some Republicans who have distanced
themselves from his Iraq policies. "People will run the race they need to run,"
he said. Bush said Democrats "don't have a plan for victory."
- "It's hard for me to tell" if US troops will still be in Iraq when he
leaves office in January 2009.