President Bush portrayed himself as above election-year politics Friday and said he did not want the presidential campaign “to get in the way of me doing my job.”
“I don’t care what your party is. I don’t care who you’re for for president. I have a job to do, and so do you,” the president said at a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The White House, meanwhile, announced that Bush would travel Thursday to New Hampshire, raising his presence there two days after the first-in-the-nation presidential primary election. He also will visit Greenwich, Conn., the same day for a Bush-Cheney re-election fund-raiser.
On Monday, Bush will be in Arkansas to talk about health care.
Bush feels mayors’ pain
Speaking to the mayors, Bush said he knew that this year would be “a difficult year for some.”
“But I want you to know this: I don’t want politics to get in the way of me doing my job and you doing your job for the people. I want you to know, I assure you ... let us not let the elections get in the way of our solemn responsibility.”
Bush again reprised the themes of his State of the Union address and emphasized the war against terrorism.
“There is an enemy that still lurks out there,” he said.
“I wish I could report to you that the war on terror is over with and America is safe and secure, but I cannot,” the president said. “I can’t tell you that in conscience because I don’t believe it.”
Bush’s leadership of the war against terror is his strongest suit against Democrats in his campaign for re-election, according to polls.
“It is the solemn duty of government to protect the American people,” he said Friday.
He said the nation was making solid progress, capturing or killing two-thirds of the known leaders of the al-Qaida terrorist group. If al-Qaida were a business organization, he said, the board of directors would be somewhat intact but the ranks of the middle managers would be “no longer useful.”
Bush did not mention that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was still at large, but he pointed to the capture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and said, “As the world saw, there is no hole deep enough from the long arm of American justice.”