updated 8/26/2004 10:44:03 PM ET 2004-08-27T02:44:03

President Bush said Thursday that he believes he made the right decision to invade Iraq and thinks voters will not deny him a second term even if they disagree with the war.

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With the number of U.S. casualties expected to reach 1,000 well before the election, Bush said, "The president has to make hard decisions. My job is to confront problems not pass them on. And the American people have seen me make the hardest of decisions. That's just going to have to be a part of their decision-making process."

He made his comments in an interview with USA Today that was posted on its Internet site.

Public opinion initially favored Bush's decision to go to war but, after months of casualties and chaos, the public is evenly divided on the subject now.

"There's a lot of my friends who come and bass-fish with me. They don't say it out loud, I know they're thinking it: Why?" Bush said. "And the answer is because the stakes are high. Because there is more work to be done to make the world a freer and more peaceful place. It is essential that America lead in the 21st century in order to defeat the ideologues who use terror as a weapon, in order to secure the homeland, but also in order to spread liberty. I know what needs to be done, I see clearly where we need to go and I want to spend four years leading toward that goal. And I believe the American people will give me that opportunity," he said.

On other points, Bush said:

  • He stands by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld despite two reports criticizing the Pentagon's management of Iraqi prisons.
  • The campaign for the White House "really doesn't seem that ugly to me" despite the furor over political ads by outside groups attacking John Kerry's war record.
  • The most disappointing thing about his four years in office has been his inability to change the "harsh environment" in Washington.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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