Bush and Pelosi make nice as Democratic victory sinks in
Responding to setbacks suffered by his allies in Tuesday's mid-term elections, Bush said he accepts "a large part of the responsibility" for the result, but "now it's our duty to put the election behind us and work together with the Democrats."
Democrat Nancy Pelosi, set to become the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives, pledged to co-operate with Republicans as "the Speaker of the House, not the Speaker of the Democrats."
Talk of impeaching Bush "is off the table," she said. But she urged him "to listen to the voice of the people" on the war.
Bush allowed that "no doubt Iraq played a role" in the election. "People see carnage on their television sets."
Even so, he rejected the idea of an early pullout. He sought to assure both Iraqis and American troops in Iraq that his administration remains committed to the mission.
"To our brave men and women in uniform, don't be doubtful," he said. "America will always support you. Our nation is blessed to have men and women who volunteer and are willing to risk their lives for the safety of our fellow citizens."
However, Bush's support no longer extended to his defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, whose theories of quick victory with limited forces left American troops mired in Iraq.
"Secretary Rumsfeld and I agreed sometimes it's necessary to have a fresh perspective," the president said.
Bush rejected comparisons with the military dead end U.S. forces reached in Southeast Asia in the 1970s.
Iraq "is different from Vietnam," he said, pointing to the defeat of a dictator and the election of a government seeking to unify the country.
"Secondly, in terms of our troops, this is a volunteer army," he said. "Vietnam wasn't a volunteer army, as you know. The troops understand the consequences of Iraq and the global war on terror."
He also rejected the idea that the daily bloodshed in Iraq constitutes a civil war.
"I don't believe this is a civil war; the Iraqi PM doesn't, and our ambassador there doesn't."
With files from the Associated Press