On two of the biggest issues, Iraq and the Deficit, the preznit really has no clue:
Q Now that the political volatility is off the issue because the election is over, I’d like to ask you about troop levels in Iraq in the next couple of months leading up to elections. The Pentagon already has a plan to extend tours of duty for 6,500 U.S. troops. How many more will be needed to provide security in Iraq for elections, seeing as how the Iraqi troops that you’re trying to train up are pretty slow coming on line?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah. First of all, the — we are making good progress in training the Iraqi troops. There will be 125,000 of them trained by election time.
Secondly, I have yet to — I have not sat down with our secretary of Defense talking about troop levels.
I read some reports during the course of the campaign where some were speculating in the press corps about the number of troops needed to protect elections. I — that has not been brought to my attention yet. And so I would caution you that what you have either read about or reported was pure speculation thus far.
These elections are important, and we will respond, John, to the requests of our commanders on the ground. And I have yet to hear from our commanders on the ground that they need more troops.
Q Thank you, sir. Many within your own party are unhappy over the deficit, and they say keeping down discretional spending alone won’t help you reach your goal of halving the deficit in five years. What else do you plan to do to cut costs?
PRESIDENT BUSH: (Chuckles.) Well, I — I — you know, I would suggest they look at our budget that we’ve submitted to Congress, which does in fact get the deficit cut in half in five years. And it is a specific, line-by-line budget that we are required to submit, and have done so.
The key to making sure that the deficit is reduced is for there to be on the one hand spending discipline — and I — as you noticed in my opening remarks, I talked about these appropriations bills that are beginning to move. And I thought I was pretty clear about the need for those bills to be — to be fiscally responsible, and I meant it. And I look forward to talking to the leadership about making sure that the budget agreements we had are still the — still the budget agreements; that just because we had an election, that they shouldn’t feel comfortable changing our agreement. And I think they understand that.
Secondly, the other way to make sure that the deficit is — decreases is to grow the economy. As the economy grows, there will be more revenues coming into the Treasury. That’s what you have seen recently. If you notice, there’s been some — there’s been some write-downs of the budget deficit. In other words, the deficit is less than we thought because the revenues is exceeding projections. And the reason why the revenues — the revenues ARE exceeding projections.