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Bush Renews Pledge to Remain in Iraq

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

At the White House today, President Bush was looking ahead to this weekend's voting in Iraq. The referendum on a new constitution is an important moment for Iraqis and also for the Bush administration. The White House could use a positive story after all of the violence of the past year. At the same time, the administration continues to deal with criticism of Harriet Miers' nomination to the US Supreme Court. We'll begin our coverage with NPR's Don Gonyea.

DON GONYEA reporting:

The White House is promoting this weekend's voting in Iraq as another step toward independence and democracy for the war-torn nation. The administration declines to predict how the vote will go, how many will turn out and what the verdict of the Iraqi people will be on the document. But the president, in a satellite videoconference with a small group of soldiers in the town of Tikrit, described the election as another sign to insurgents that Iraq is moving forward. He also reiterated his own resolve to stay the course.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: So long as I'm the president, we're never gonna back down, we're never gonna give in, we'll never accept anything less than total victory. It's important for you to know that. It's important for the enemy to know that, as well.

GONYEA: That group of soldiers, which included a sergeant in the Iraqi army, said measures are in place to safeguard polling places. They all stress the role Iraqi troops are playing in providing election security. Democrats in Congress, meanwhile, said the president still has not laid out a clear strategy for the mission in Iraq.

The domestic issue that is taking up the most time at the White House these days is the Harriet Miers nomination. With resistance from conservatives showing no sign of abating, the president's spokesman, Scott McClellan, today said Miers is highly qualified to sit on the court. He was asked if she's tough enough to withstand calls for her withdrawal.

CARL(ph): Could you describe her and who she is relative to her tenacity? The president's called her a `pit bull in size 6 shoes.' Could you elaborate?

Mr. SCOTT McCLELLAN (White House Spokesman): Carl, what we have talked about publicly is her record and her qualifications and her judicial philosophy. Some have chosen to focus on other issues; we have focused on her record and her qualifications because that's what this should be based on. That's why the president selected her, and that's why he knows that she will make an outstanding Supreme Court justice.

GONYEA: But McClellan's tone underscores the fight the White House has on its hands on the home front, even as it watches anxiously for the returns from Iraq this weekend. Don Gonyea, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.