SOLDIER'S WIFE WATCHING BUSH PRESS CONFERENCE
Mary Godleski  /  AP
Buffi Hinker, 32, watches President Bush's news conference in Lower Township, N.J., Tuesday. The wife of Jonathan Hinker, a national guardsman serving in Iraq, she was worried by Bush's references to the potential for keeping troops longer in Iraq, but also was comforted by his repeated mentions of the soldiers' families at home.
updated 4/14/2004 2:59:12 PM ET 2004-04-14T18:59:12

Robert Starks, a 60-year-old political science professor at Northeastern Illinois University, labeled President Bush’s answers to reporters’ questions “vapid, confusing and evasive.” He called Bush “an abomination to a great nation.”

But Dennis Nelson, commander of an American Legion post in Tampa, Fla., said Bush was exactly as he needed to be in his prime-time address to the nation Tuesday: strong, direct and resolute that the United States will finish the job in Iraq, no matter what.

In bars, restaurants and living rooms across the country, Americans tuned in to watch the president’s address and response to reporters' questions, which followed one of the bloodiest periods in Iraq.

Iraqis did as well, and their reaction ranged from relief to frustration when Bush suggested that he may send more troops and that they would take decisive action to restore order.

Sampling of Americans
Starks watched in Chicago with about 20 members of the Task Force for Black Political Empowerment, a political activist group against the Iraq war.

Nelson, a 51-year-old Vietnam veteran and Republican, watched at the Legion hall with other veterans and their families. He lauded Bush for standing firm, despite increasing instability in Iraq and polls showing fewer Americans approve of the way he’s handling the war.

In San Francisco, freelance photographer Tom Erikson, 42, said it angered him to watch the president invoke the memories of the American soldiers who have died thus far.

“The schmaltzy, false sorrow is the most revolting thing to me,” Erikson said. “It’s crocodile tears when you hear him crying over the dead when he is the one who caused their deaths.”

In Dearborn, Mich., as dozens of men participated in evening prayers at the Karbalaa Islamic Center, imam Husham Al-Husainy watched Bush’s speech on a small television in his office.

The Iraqi-born Shiite cleric said Bush has good goals to bring democracy and stability to Iraq, but does not appear to have earned the trust of the Iraqi people.

“What he said about the necessity to remove Saddam, that is very true, and the need to fight the terrorists, that is very true,” he said. “But the way he is doing that does not always look like what is right.”

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Poll on war, terrorism
An AP poll last week found that 41 percent approved of Bush’s performance on foreign policy issues and 51 percent approved of his handling of the war on terrorism. His standing with the public on those issues has dropped since January. Video:

While Bush calls the war in Iraq the front line of the war on terror, an increasing number of people — about half — said it has increased the threat of terrorism, not decreased it, the AP poll found. And more people saw the possibility that Iraq could become like Vietnam, an extended military struggle with no clear resolution.

Buffi Hinker of Lower Township, N.J., is the wife of a New Jersey National Guardsman serving in Iraq. While she’s worried by the prospect of troops being kept longer over there, she said she was comforted by Bush’s repeated mentions of the soldiers’ families at home.

“He’s willing to take a stand and to back it up, regardless of whether it’s not as popular as people want it to be,” said Hinker, 32, a Republican. “He understands what the families are going through.”

Jill Zack, an Albuquerque, N.M., Democrat and marketing manager, was unmoved by Bush’s address, accusing the president of changing his story to justify the war.

“We went there because we were scared they had weapons of mass destruction, but now it’s about Iraqi freedom,” said Zack, 26. “But is that our desire or their desire?”

Views from Iraq
In Baghdad, Razzaq Abdel-Zahra, the owner of an auto parts shop, saw a short report of Bush’s comments on Arabic satellite station Al-Jazeera.

“I was relieved to hear Bush saying that U.S. troops will remain in Iraq because any withdrawal means disaster in my country,” he said. “Every militia will try to take control of Iraq. This will lead to a civil war and subsequently Iraq will fall apart.”

But he also said the president’s vow to use “decisive force” to maintain order would lead to more unrest. “Violence breeds only violence,” he said.

Many people in Baghdad were unaware of Bush’s remarks, which were made before dawn in Iraq, too late for inclusion in morning newspapers. The nation’s sole 24-hour TV channel didn’t broadcast the news conference.

Ahmed Alma’adhidi, 32, a dentist in Baghdad, said if Bush had ordered troops to take a softer approach to maintaining security, opposition to the presence of U.S. forces would have lessened.

“The Americans are the main reason for the security problems and the chaos in the country. They are violating Muslim Iraqi sanctities by breaking into houses and detaining Iraqi women,” he said.

U.S.-funded Iraqi TV station Al-Iraqiya did not broadcast Bush’s press conference. However, a news ticker at the bottom of the screen during regular programming highlighted some of the president’s comments, including his rejection of suggestions that Iraq was becoming another Vietnam — a quagmire without ready exit.

Munqath Shakir, a retired army colonel, agreed with Bush’s comments that a recent spike in violence is neither a civil war nor a popular uprising. Shakir did not actually see Bush speak but was shown a transcript of the president’s remarks.

“It is true that most of the people behind the bloodshed in Iraq are extremists or power-seekers,” he said. “But there are also people who joined al-Sadr’s movement and the fighters in Fallujah, not necessarily because they believe in their goals, but because they are angered by U.S. mistakes during the occupation.”

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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