Bush Going For Broke With Troop Surge

<b>60 Minutes Exclusive</b>: President Has Made Up His Mind And Takes Full Responsibility

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Thursday morning, leaving the White House, Mr. Bush started a campaign to sell the country on the new plan. Just 12 hours after his address to the nation, his strategy was already being savaged on Capitol Hill and in the media. He had wagered the war and his presidency on his personal ability to sell the troop build-up. Pelley joined the president on board his helicopter, Marine One, a scene the public almost never sees.

The overnight polls were showing his primetime address to the nation hadn't convinced many people that sending more troops was the answer.

"This was a hard decision. But once I make up my mind I know it's important for me to explain it as clearly as I can. And, just gave it my best shot and I'm going to go down to Fort Benning today to continue explaining the decision I made, in this case to men and women who wear the uniform," Bush tells Pelley. "I owe it to the troops to explain my decision and to thank them and to thank their families. It's an extraordinary country to have men and women volunteer in the face of danger."

Mr. Bush, realizing he had never had a TV camera on board Marine One, urged 60 Minutes to catch the Washington Monument going by. He had been reading a book on the history of the city and pointed out landmarks on Pennsylvania Avenue. He told Pelley he is reading another book, a historical parallel to Iraq about France's long, losing fight against insurgents in Algeria; Henry Kissinger had recommended it. In minutes, Marine One reached Andrews Air Force Base and Air Force One.

At Fort Benning, the president would be able to count on a friendly audience. But even among Americans in uniform there's growing frustration. A poll, three weeks ago in the respected Military Times newspapers, showed, for the first time more troops disapprove than approve of the way he's handling Iraq.

Pelley mentioned to Mr. Bush that thousands of those troops have served two, three and even four tours already and if he would impose a limit.

"You know, Scott, it is…we're fortunate that people are willing to continue to serve. I've talked to some wives in there whose husbands have been over there for their second time. I said, 'How you doin'?' 'I'm doing fine, my husband understands what we're doing.' The military is motivated," Bush says.

"In Vietnam as you know, you served 365 and you were done," Pelley remarks.

"This is a different situation. This is a volunteer army. In Vietnam, it was, 'We're going to draft you and you're going to go for a year.' This is a military where people understand there may be additional deployments," Bush says.

Next during the visit to Fort Benning came something Mr. Bush told 60 Minutes was the hardest part of his presidency: facing families whose loved ones were killed after he sent them into battle. Over the years he has met with about 400 families.

After two hours in a meeting, he seemed a different man.

"How was all that?" Pelley asks.

"You know, I … it's hard for the family members to recount, relive their love in front of the president. And yet, once you get beyond the initial meeting, it's amazing how strong the folks are and want to just let me know a lot of things. What their son or husband was like. They want me to know generally how much they understood the cause and how proud they were to serve our country," Bush says.

"What are stories you heard today?" Pelley asks.

"You know, one mom says 'My son was 6'5", good-looking guy,' showed me the picture. 'He was in a Humvee and an IED hit and he was so big, his body shielded four other troops from death.' I said 'Well, did you get to meet the other four?' And she said 'They're like my family now.' You know, a lot of them say 'Mr. President, don't let my son die in vain,'" Bush says.

The president told Pelley he reads the casualty report every morning and personally signs every letter to the families of Americans killed in action.

After a last pass by the troops in Fort Benning, he headed back to the White House and would meet 60 Minutes again the next morning at Camp David.