It sure took him a long time for something rather simple...so one has to wonder how Bush handles things that are more dicey. And he doesn't very often answer questions from the press anyway...and for obvious reasons.
Bush Takes Reponsibility for Iraq Claims
President Touches on War, Gay Marriage, Economy in Wide-Ranging News Conference
By Tom Raum
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, July 30, 2003; 11:36 AM
President Bush on Wednesday accepted personal responsibility for a controversial portion of last winter's State of the Union address dealing with claims that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear material in Africa.
"I take personal responsibility for everything I say, absolutely," the president said at a White House news conference. Bush has been seeking to quell a controversy over a controversial claim that has dogged his administration for weeks.
Speaking at his first solo news conference since March, the president said the deaths of Saddam Hussein's two sons marked progress in assuring the Iraqi people that the old regime was gone forever, but said "I don't know how close we are" to finding the deposed dictator.
"Closer than we were yesterday, I guess. All I know is we're on the hunt," he added.
Despite nearly daily deaths of American troops in postwar Iraq, Bush appealed for patience as Iraqis try and form a new, free society. "I didn't expect Thomas Jefferson to emerge in Iraq in a 90-day period," he said.
Bush said the United States and its allies would "complete our mission in Iraq, We will complete our mission in Afghanistan . . . We will wage the war on terror against every enemy that plots against our people."
Bush had been asked before about the 16 controversial words in the State of the Union address, and had declined to take personal responsibility. Instead, CIA Director George Tenet did so, followed by a senior White House aide, deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley.
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," the president said in last winter's nationally televised address. But many CIA officials doubted the accuracy of the British intelligence -- concerns that were not reflected in the decision to include the statement in the speech.
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice has also come under criticism in connection with the speech and events leading to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Bush strongly defended his aide Wednesday, saying she was an "honest fabulous person" and the United States was lucky to have her in government.
Fielding questions in the summer heat for roughly an hour, Bush also defended his decision not to declassify a portion of a congressional report dealing with intelligence lapses in advance of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Saudi Prince Saud al-Faisel met with Bush at the White House on Tuesday to seek declassification of a part of the report dealing with his country. But Bush told reporters, "since I'm in charge of the war on terror, we won't reveal source and methods" of gathering intelligence.
"I will never assume the restraint and goodwill of dangerous enemies when lives of our citizens are at work," he added.
The president shed little light on a warning from the Department of Homeland Security that al-Qaida might try and launch new terrorist attacks using airplanes. "The threat is a real threat, a threat where we obviously don't have specific data, we don't know where, when what."
The president opened his news conference with a pledge to fight the war on terrorism as well as push the economy toward recovery. "We are beginning to see hopefuls signs of faster growth in the economy which over time will yield new jobs. Yet the unemployment rate is too high and we will not rest until Americans looking for work can find a job," Bush said.
He also asked Congress to pass measures on his list of priorities -- an energy bill, a child tax credit for lower-income families, and a Medicare prescription drug bill among them.
The appearance before reporters marked the eighth time since taking office that Bush has fielded questions at a formal news conference, and the first time since American and British forces invaded Iraq last March.
By comparison, Bill Clinton had held 33 formal news conferences at a comparable point in his administration; Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, had 61.
The president stepped to the microphones after a stormy period in domestic and international affairs.
The economy has been struggling to recover from a recent recession -- and Democrats habitually point out that more jobs have been lost since the president took office than at any time since Herbert Hoover sat in the White House.
Bush has also been buffeted by increasingly strong Democratic attacks on his handling of the postwar period in Iraq, where American troops have been killed virtually daily by hardcore Saddam supporters.