(AP) President Bush, facing new pressure to start bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq, said Tuesday he won't consider it until hearing a fresh assessment of the war effort from his top commander there this fall.
"That's what the American people expect. They expect for military people to come back and tell us how the military operations are going," Mr. Bush said. "And that's the way I'm going to play it as commander in chief."
Gen. David Petraeus is due in September to present a progress report to Congress on the effects of the recently completed troop build up in Iraq. Frustration in Congress - among leaders of both parties - has led to calls for changes in strategy before then.
Mr. Bush, though, said he won't be swayed.
"We just started. We got all the troops there a couple of weeks ago," he told the Greater Cleveland Partnership, a coalition of Northeast Ohio companies.
"I believe it's in this nation's interest to give the commander a chance to fully implement his operations," Mr. Bush said. "And I believe Congress ought to wait for Gen. Petraeus to come back and give his assessment of the strategy that he's putting in place before making any decisions."
Mr. Bush's comments came as the White House scrambled to respond to a deeply frustrated public and Congress, while also warning that his troop build up needs more time to work.
"I wouldn't ask a mother or a dad - I wouldn't put their son in harm's way if I didn't believe this was necessary for the security of the United States and the peace of the world," Mr. Bush said. "I strongly believe it, and I strongly believe we'll prevail."
Back in Washington, the Senate wrestled with a defense spending bill, including efforts to withdraw troops and other ideas to wind down the war. With Republican support fading, and a new report expected to show little progress, the war continued to hang over Mr. Bush.
Meanwhile, the president was also trying to pressure lawmakers into taking up what's left of his shrinking domestic agenda.
In stops through the Cleveland area, he hoped to draw attention to a strung-together list of topics: energy alternatives, affordable health insurance and restrained spending.
He began in Parma with a tour of GrafTech, a maker of graphite products that are used in fuel cells. Mr. Bush playfully climbed about a fork lift powered by such a fuel cell. He is promoting alternative fuels as a primary way to reduce U.S. consumption of gasoline.
Later, he dug into a heaping corned beef sandwich over lunch with community leaders in Cleveland. He then visited the Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit hospital where Mr. Bush got hands-on lessons in new ways to repair aneurysms and probe the brain. "Amazing," he said.
The president's itinerary underlined the White House strategy: get beyond the collapse of immigration reform by focusing on what's next - and blame Congress for inaction.
Even though Democrats run the legislative branch, Mr. Bush's own party crushed his bid to legalize millions of unlawful immigrants and strengthen the border. Three-quarters of the Senate's Republicans, including the chamber's leader, voted to derail his immigration bill last month.
The White House sees a chance to regain some advantage in the yearly spending debates. The aim is to simplify the arcane appropriations process into a message that resonates with the public: Mr. Bush will stop Democrats from spending too much of the public's money.
Indeed, Mr. Bush is itching for a fight and promising vetoes. The Democrats' blueprint would increase spending on federal agencies about $22 billion above Mr. Bush's request. He claims it would amount to the largest tax hike in history by allowing some tax cuts to expire.
"The Republican Party has lost a lot of the advantage we used to have," said Charlie Black, a GOP strategist close to the White House. "People used to view Republicans as the party that would keep down spending, keep taxes low and restrain the size of government. This gives us a chance to remind people of the differences."