Bush Welcomes New Compromise in Iraq

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President Bush wraps up a four-day tour of California with a wide-ranging speech and question-and-answer session in Irvine. Although announced as an address on immigration, Bush's remarks returned often to the war on terror and the war in Iraq, where the president said he sees cause for optimism.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

President Bush wrapped up a long weekend visit to California today. At a hotel in Irvine, Mr. Bush renewed his call for comprehensive immigration legislation. NPR's David Greene reports that the president also held firm on his decisions regarding Iraq, saying if he had to do it over, he would invade with the same number of troops.

DAVID GREENE reporting:

For a president who is always on the move when he travels and rarely takes in the scene, this four-day weekend in California seemed almost like a vacation. He took bike rides in Napa Valley and the desert country around Palm Springs, and he stopped by to see the oldest living former U.S. President, Gerald Ford. But today, stopping in the Orange County city of Irvine, he confronted some of the tough issues that are defining his second term. First he told an audience of business leaders that he stands by the basic decisions he's made in Iraq, and that the new government forming in Baghdad now is a cause for hope.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: This is a new chapter in our relationship. We hit an important milestone when the unity government was formed. And now there's a new chapter in the relationship. We're moving forward.

GREENE: Then Mr. Bush made the turn to immigration, taking on those who insist that all those in the country illegally should go home. That would include one Orange County Republican Congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, who supports the House's enforcement only approach to the problem. The Congressman told the Orange County Register that he would not attend the president's speech, and that Mr. Bush is out of touch on the issue. The president said in Irvine today that he wants people to remember that the U.S. has a tradition of welcoming immigrants, and being enriched in return.

President BUSH: I believe that immigration has helped reinvigorate the soul of America. I know that when somebody comes to our country, because he or she has a dream and is willing to work hard for that dream, it makes America a better place.

GREENE: The president said he favors the kind of compromise that, for a time, appeared headed for passage in the Senate earlier this month. A bill that would beef up security at the borders, but also allow illegal aliens to gain legal status and, in some cases, eventual citizenship.

President BUSH: And so I think that the best way to enforce our border, and the best way, besides making sure it's modern and we've got manpower and equipment down there, which we do, and it's increasing every week, is to come up with a rational plan that recognizes people coming here to work, and let them do so on a temporary basis. That's why I'm for a temporary worker program.

GREENE: The president called for lawmakers to elevate the debate above politics. As it stands in the Senate today, however, the stalemate continues and it's not clear when the immigration debate will even return to the floor of the Senate. David Greene, NPR News, traveling with the President.

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