Bush Sets Stage For Fall Battles

In his first full-fledged news conference since July 12, Bush stuck to his guns, noting that on "the threshold question, does it matter?"--his answer was yes. Asking "Can we succeed?" he replied "Absolutely." He said he wouldn't "send a mother's child" into combat if he didn't believe the war was necessary and can be won.

Presaging his arguments next month after Gen. David Petraeus issues his long-awaited report on Iraq, Bush says that there is "ground-up" reconciliation going on in that troubled country but that the news media don't report the full picture.

The president also said he would consider giving corporations more tax breaks if it would help them compete internationally but added that he hasn't made up his mind and acknowledged that it would be a hard sell. Just raising the issue, however, heartens some conservatives and may cause an uptick in Bush's job-approval rating with his Republican base.

Addressing the problems in the mortgage industry, Bush said that the overall economy remains strong and that he opposes direct grants to homeowners who have lost their property because they took out risky loans that they can no longer handle. Bush said his administration is studying the problem to determine what can be done. He noted that some Americans need more "education" so that they know that they are getting into when they sign up for high-risk loans.

Bush is scheduled to spend the next few days at his father's retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine, where he will meet with new French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is vacationing in nearby New Hampshire. Then Bush goes to his Texas ranch for an extended stay. This is sure to arouse the ire of his critics, who say he should stay on the job in Washington.

By Kenneth T. Walsh