Bush On Iraq, Security, The L-Word

With elections in Iraq just two weeks away, President Bush is diminishing expectations for turnout. — with forecasts that as much as 25 percent of the Iraqi people won't be able to vote — how will he measure success?

"The fact that they're voting," Mr. Bush said. "There was a lot of people that would have given you long odds a year and a half ago that there would be elections at all in Iraq. Obviously we want everybody to vote and there are some who aren't gonna vote because they're afraid for their lives, but they want to vote and that's important..."

The road to democracy in Iraq is not the only tough one ahead for President Bush. On his plans to reform for Social Security — the President's own party is divided. Many Republicans don't believe there's a crisis — and say why set off a political war? Democrats charge the proposal for private accounts will destroy - not save Social Security.

"Will private accounts by themselves fix Social Security?" Roberts asked.

"There's gonna be — it's very important for people to put all options on the table with the exception of effecting those who have already retired like I have said and without raising the payroll tax — other than that I'm open minded," Bush replied.

"Will you absolutely have to cut benefits for future retirees - adjust the formula by which they're calculated — in order to keep Social Security solvent?" Roberts wanted to know.

"Well, we'll work with congress on all different ways to address the issue but one thing is for certain — if we don't act, in other words if we fall for the line that nothing is wrong with the system, we'll either have to raise payroll taxes significantly or slash benefits and that's pretty clear."

"So was that a yes or a no?" Roberts asked.

The president said, "That is I'm working with Congress to come up with a solution."

The President will need bipartisan support if he hopes to get his agenda through. Mr. Bush says he'll try to heal the wounds of a divisive election with his inaugural address. But he acknowledges that time is short.

"You're right — I gotta get moving and get some things done before people kind of write me off."

"Could I just bring up the L-word quickly?" Roberts asked.

"Is that Laura?" said the president.

"No that's 'legacy'," Roberts chuckled. "How do you want your presidency to be recognized in the history books."

"Oh, John, ya know, first of all I don't think I'll be around to really see the history," Mr. Bush said.

"But you've got to care about it," said Roberts.

"Oh, ah, I kind of, I think that uh, how about this? That George W Bush used the great influence of America to spread freedom at home and abroad."

Which really raises the stakes for what happens on Jan. 30. Iraq's future — and the President's legacy are both riding on the outcome of the elections there.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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