MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Now to the Bob Woodward book and the reaction from the White House. The Bush administration won key victories in Congress this week, including passage of a bill on the handling of terrorism suspects.

But those accomplishments have been overshadowed today by charges in a new book by The Washington Post's Bob Woodward. NPR's Don Gonyea reports.

DON GONYEA: The president himself was out on the stump again today delivering a speech this morning to a military group, the Reserve Officers Association, in Washington.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: We have confidence in the outcome of the war against terror because our nation is determined. We have done this kind of hard work before and we have succeeded. And we can be confident because we've got incredible men and women who wear our nation's uniform.

(Soundbite of applause)

GONYEA: But at the same time the White House was bracing for an onslaught of questions about the new Bob Woodward book, the message of which is summed up in it's title, State of Denial.

The book is the third on the Bush presidency by the legendary Washington Post reporter. The first two books were seen as friendly to the president, even admiring, and were welcomed by the White House.

This one is neither. It goes on sale in bookstores tomorrow, two days earlier than the original schedule, because of all this publicity. At 537 pages, it details a Bush White House that has known the war in Iraq is getting worse, not better, accusing the White House of trying to disguise a rise in attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. The book also says the president ignored warnings about the strength of the Iraqi insurgency a full three years ago.

When Press Secretary Tony Snow began his Friday briefing today, almost 45 minutes late, the questions about Woodward came right away, and Snow responded first by offering this critique of the book.

Mr. TONY SNOW (White House Press Secretary): In a lot of ways the books are like cotton candy. It kind of melts on contact. We've read this book before. This tends to repeat what we've seen in a number of other books that have been out this year where people are ventilating old disputes over troop levels.

GONYEA: Snow then said it's wrong to say the president views the war through rose colored glasses.

Mr. SNOW: The president, contrary to the assertion, was not in fact painting a rose-colored picture. He has been saying that it's a tough war, it's a long war, it's a war that's going to outlive his presidency.

GONYEA: Snow accused those who talked to Woodward of being in essence disgruntled employees, people who had lost arguments within the administration and were getting their own side of the story out.

But it was also pointed out to the press secretary that the White House did not question the accuracy of Woodward's earlier two books about the administration. This question came from Martha Raddatz of ABC News.

Ms. MARTHA RADDATZ (ABC News): Are you saying this because you're on the losing side of the argument now? Because you're being very defensive about what's in that book. And yet you're not saying the attacks are down. You're saying that's a classified report.

Mr. SNOW: Yeah. Well, people are trying to attack our troops. That's no secret.

Ms. RADDATZ: Are they higher? Are you in a state of denial? Does the American public really know what's going on there?

Mr. SNOW: I think the American people get a pretty good sense.

GONYEA: On other topics, Snow was asked about a campaign speech the president delivered in Alabama yesterday for a Republican gubernatorial candidate. In it he accused Democrats of wanting to quote, "cut and run in Iraq," and said that some Democrats say the U.S. shouldn't be on the offensive in the war on terror.

Snow was asked who specifically he was talking about. He offered no specific name, saying instead that the war was a key campaign issue. The reporter interrupted.

Unidentified Woman (Reporter): I mean I asked when people have said they don't want to be on the offense in the war on terror.

Mr. SNOW: Well, I'm giving you a characterization. Did somebody say I don't want to go on the offense? No. But if somebody says, I wish to strategically redeploy to Okinawa, I think that would be construed as not being on the offense.

GONYEA: It was that kind of day for the White House, indicating it will be harder to divert talk of Iraq to talk of terrorism in the final month before the election on November 7. Don Gonyea, NPR News, The White House.

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