Cal Thomas met with President Bush on Tuesday afternoon in the Oval Office. After discussing the upcoming State of the Union address, Bush and Thomas covered a wide range of subjects. Following is an edited transcript of their interview.
Q: Iraq's interim President said today he doesn't foresee American troops leaving until the country's security forces are built up and pockets of resistance are destroyed. He said, by the end of year we could see the number of foreign troops decreasing. But you seem to have a goal in mind of when the - you're turning it around - when the goal is achieved, then the troops will come back, not the reverse.
THE PRESIDENT: I think timetables are a mistake. The enemies can wait out timetables; the enemies anticipate a time - the arrival of a date. The enemies will lie low, a timetable happens, then they strike. I have a different view. I believe we ought to achieve the goal, and that's the - that will be the moment - and the goal is to, obviously, help this country realize its dreams. And what the American people saw was a country that has dreams. I mean, people defied the terrorists and went to the polls in amazing numbers. Exciting moment.
Q: Did you have any - the night before, did you have any doubts, any fears that it would come off differently?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I - any time there's uncertainty, you, obviously, think about all the alternatives. But in the end, I had great faith. And I believe truly that if people - if given a chance, people will vote, people want to be free. And the first confirmation of the belief of, just give people a chance, they will express themselves, like the people in our country expresses themselves, happened in Afghanistan. I mean, the vote was overwhelming. And same in Iraq.
Q: Low Sunni turnout bother you at all?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I talked to King Abdullah, in Jordan, who told me that they had a very high turnout of Sunni - of Iraqi voters in Jordan, most of whom are Sunnis, because - which tells me that if the situation is secure, that people will vote. And that's what kind of these polls indicated.
I think you'll find - and again, we haven't found - seen all the results from all the areas. It is understandable in a province like al Anbar, which was - where Fallujah was the heart - where people had been dislocated and there's camps - you can understand why the turnout may be lower than other places. We wanted all the people to vote.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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