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PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) -- President Bush, confronting public doubts about his postwar strategy in Iraq, likened the task to rebuilding Germany and Japan after World War II.
Speaking to a military audience Thursday, he cautioned Americans against complacency, warning that the danger of terrorism "has not passed." And striking back at the Democrats who want his job, Bush said, "The challenges we face today cannot be met with timid actions or bitter words. Our challenges will be overcome with optimism and resolve and confidence in the ideals of America."
Six months after the statue of Saddam Hussein fell in the Iraq war, Bush said he was concerned that "perceptions" didn't reflect the reality of "progress" in Iraq. He spoke on a day when several people, including a Spanish diplomat, died in a fresh burst of violence in Baghdad.
"They're trying desperately to undermine Iraq's progress and throw that country into chaos," Bush said at an Air National Guard base here. "They believe that America will run from a challenge. They're mistaken. Americans are not the running kind."
Americans, he said, "did not run from Germany and Japan following World War II."
"We helped those countries become strong and decent and democratic societies that no longer waged war on America, and that's our mission in Iraq right now," Bush said.
Much of Bush's speech sought to refocus Americans on what he said is the continuing danger of terrorism. He grimly read a list of places that have been struck by terror in recent months: Casablanca, Jerusalem, Jordan, New Delhi, Bali and others. "The terrorists continue to plot and plan against our country, and our people," Bush said. "America must not forget the lessons of Sept. 11."
Bush's pep talk to a friendly audience of reservists and National Guard members was the beginning of a long day that also had him talking up the economy in Manchester, N.H., then flying to Kentucky.
In Manchester, Bush said he saw many signs of economic rebound: low inflation, record homeownership, high productivity, rising factory orders.
"Our strategy has set the stage for sustained growth," he said to another supportive audience -- this time the local Chamber of Commerce.
Outside his Portsmouth and Manchester appearances, protesters waved signs that read "Bush die."
"All of you are balancing jobs in your lives, and public service," Bush told National Guard troops and reservists. "You are demonstrating that duty and public service are alive and well in New Hampshire."
Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle praised the president's salute to the troops, but said Bush missed a chance to support an amendment the Senate approved last Friday to extend military and health coverage to some members of the National Guard and Reserves.
"I don't think the American people want spin," the South Dakota Democrat said. "I think they want results."
On the state-by-state map of the 2000 presidential election, New Hampshire was an island -- the only Northeastern state to vote for Bush. Bush is eager to keep it in his column.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)