JOURNALIST: And as you mentioned, out of Baghdad we're now hearing about benchmarks and timetables from the Iraqi government, as relayed by American officials, to stop the sectarian violence.
In the past, Democrats and other critics of the war who talked about benchmarks and timetables were labeled as defeatists, "defeatocrats," or people who wanted to cut and run. So why shouldn't the American people conclude that this is nothing from you other than semantic, rhetorical games and all politics two weeks before an election?
GEORGE W. BUSH: We're working with the Iraqi government to come up with benchmarks. Listen, this is a sovereign government. It was elected by the people of Iraq.
What we're asking them to do is to say, "When do you think you're going to get this done? When can you get this done?" So the people themselves in Iraq can see that the government is moving forward with a reconciliation plan and plans necessary to unify this government.
That is substantially different, David, from people saying, "We want a time certain to get out of Iraq." As a matter of fact, the benchmarks will make it more likely we win. Withdrawing on an artificial timetable means we lose.
Now, I'm giving this speech -- you're asking me why I'm giving this speech today, because there's -- I think I owe an explanation to the American people and will continue to make explanations. The people need to know that we have a plan for victory.
JOURNALIST: Is the coming election a referendum on Iraq? Should it be?
GEORGE W. BUSH: I think the coming election is a referendum on these two things: Which party has got the plan that will enable our economy continue -- to continue to grow? And which party has a plan to protect the American people?
And Iraq is part of the security of the United States. If we succeed and when we succeed in Iraq, our country will be more secure. If we don't succeed in Iraq, the country is less secure.
The security of the country is an issue, just like taxes are an issue. If you raise taxes, it'll hurt the economy. If you don't extend the tax cuts, if you don't make them -- in other words, if you let the tax cuts expire, it will be a tax increase on the American people.
So the two issues I see in the campaign can be boiled down to who best to protect this country and who best to keep taxes low. That's what the referendum's about.
JOURNALIST: With a Republican Congress, you failed to achieve three major goals of your second term: Social Security reform, a tax code overhaul, and a comprehensive immigration bill. Why shouldn't Americans give Democrats a chance to work with you on those issues, especially when divided governments seemed to work in the late 1990s on the budget?
GEORGE W. BUSH: That's a tricky little question there.
I -- First, I haven't given up on any of those issues. I've got two years left to achieve them. And I firmly believe it is more likely to achieve those three objectives with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican-controlled Senate. And I believe I'll be working with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican-controlled Senate.