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Bush Takes Aim At Media

It was the public relations equivalent of a declaration of war aimed at the national media: President Bush claiming the American people aren't getting the truth about Iraq.

"I'm mindful of the filter through which some news travels," Mr. Bush said, "and sometimes you just have to go over the heads of the filter and speak directly to the people. And that's what we'll continue to do."

In interviews with regional television outlets Monday – which the White House feels will go easier on the president – Mr. Bush all but ignored the daily attacks on U.S. troops and personnel and said the news about Iraq is good, reports CBS News Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts.

"The Iraqi people are beginning to prosper. Electricity is up and running and millions, or thousands of children have been immunized. Hospitals are open, schools are functioning," Mr. Bush said.

"There's a sense that people in America are not getting the truth," he told Hearst-Argyle television.

Monday's interviews marked the second phase an administration public relations offensive on Iraq that began last week with a series of speeches by Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and even first lady Laura Bush

The PR offensive comes as polls show Americans increasingly worried by the administration's Iraq policy, and as Congress prepares to vote on the president's $87 billion proposal for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Monday also marked exactly one year since Congress voted to endorse Mr. Bush's plan for military action in Iraq.

The president has been taking it on the chin in recent weeks from lawmakers who claim he lacks a coherent policy for postwar Iraq, even from members of his own party who say infighting and mixed messages among his top aides give the impression he's not in control.

On Sunday, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged Mr. Bush to take control of his quarrelsome foreign policy team.

"The president has to be president," Lugar said. "That means the president over the vice president, and over these secretaries" – meaning Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

On Monday, President Bush told Tribune Broadcasting that "the person who is in charge is me" and that people who criticize his strategy are "just wrong" – though he left it up to Americans to figure out why.

"The American people, all they've got to do if they want to figure out the strategy is to look at exactly what we said and what we did," Mr. Bush said

He also said he's not operating on a political calendar in Iraq.

"The definition of when we get out is when there is a free and peaceful Iraq based upon a constitution and elections, and obviously we'd like that to happen as quickly as possible.

"But we are mindful of rushing the process which would create the conditions for failure," he said.

However, to gain support for a United Nations resolution to broaden the occupation force, Mr. Bush did propose a December 15 deadline for the Iraqi governing council to set a timetable for writing a constitution and holding elections

The deadline was a major concession to Security Council members France and Russia in hopes of getting a vote later this week. French diplomats said Monday the new proposal was "progress," though they're not ready to sign off on it just yet.