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Bush Heads West To Back Candidates

President Bush is heading west Monday on a three-day fund-raising swing aimed at helping Republicans keep control of Congress.

With five weeks until the midterm election, Mr. Bush has been buffeted recently by a new intelligence report on the war on terror and a new book that says the violence in Iraq is worse than the White House admits.

One stop on President Bush's trip is Nevada, where Republicans are trying to hold onto a congressional seat they've controlled ever since it was created 24 years ago. The Republican candidate has just an eight-point lead over the Democrat.

Although the president is heading to California, he will pass on meeting with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The two have kept their distance since they met last spring in Silicon Valley. The president will be in California on Tuesday raising money for two Republican congressmen, but Schwarzenegger will not appear with him. Instead, the governor will be campaigning with Democrats for the infrastructure bonds on the November ballot.

Before heading out on the campaign trail, the president will meet with Turkey's prime minister, who will raise concerns about the chaos in neighboring Iraq.

Mr. Bush and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were expected to discuss Turkey's battle with the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers Party, during their meeting in Washington.

Turkey's top general on Monday rejected a unilateral cease-fire by autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels and vowed to fight the guerrilla group "until not a single terrorist is left armed."

The rebel conflict in Turkey has claimed the lives of 37,000 people since the guerrillas took up arms in 1984. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

In other Washington news:

  • Social Security has drifted out of the national debate, but Democrats, eyeing the senior vote, are trying to revive the issue — just in time for the midterm elections. Democratic leaders are advising their party's congressional candidates to focus on what the Republicans might do to Social Security, given the chance. "The president hasn't given up yet, even though the American people resoundingly rejected his proposal for private accounts," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
  • "State of Denial," the new book by Bob Woodward, criticizes the Bush administration for its handling of the war in Iraq and terrorist threats. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, seized on Woodward's report of a meeting between CIA Director George Tenet and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just before 9/11. Woodward reports that Tenet told rice there was information al Qaeda was planning an attack on the United States. However, Rice said she cannot recall Tenet warning her of an impending al Qaeda attack in the United States, as Woodward's book claims he did two months before the Sept. 11 attacks. Speaking to reporters en route to Saudi Arabia and other stops in the Middle East, Rice said she met with Tenet daily at that point, and has no memory of the wake-up call from Tenet described in the book.
  • Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who is also abroad and is facing renewed criticism about his handling of the Iraq war, has a simple yet emphatic answer for his critics: "No, no, no." Speaking as he arrived Sunday in Nicaragua, well away from the discord in Washington, Rumsfeld said President Bush gave him his personal vote of confidence in a recent private call. Rumsfeld also told reporters he was not surprised by reports the White House chief of staff encouraged Bush to fire him after the 2004 elections.
  • Venezuela President Hugo Chavez said Sunday he has received warnings from within the White House that the Bush administration is plotting to assassinate him or topple his left-leaning government. Citing what he said were warnings from an alleged White House informant, Chavez told thousands of supporters at a campaign rally that President Bush has ordered him to be killed before he leaves office in 2008. President Bush "has said that before he goes, Hugo Chavez shouldn't be the president of Venezuela," Chavez told the crowd.