Bush Compares Challenges in Iraq to First Independence Day

By ANNE E. KORNBLUT

New York Times

July 4, 2005

MORGANTOWN, W.Va., July 4 - The challenges that America faces in Iraq, President Bush said at an outdoor rally here on Monday, are like those that confronted the country on its first Independence Day.

"On July 4, 1776, more than five years of the Revolutionary War still lay ahead," Mr. Bush said.

"From the battle of New York, to the winter at Valley Forge, to the victory at Yorktown, our forefathers faced terrible losses and hardships. Yet they kept their resolve," he said. "They kept their faith in a future of liberty, and with their hard-won victory, we guaranteed a home for the Declaration's proposition that all are created equal."

Reprising his prime-time speech on Iraq the week before, President Bush declared an exit strategy in place.

"Our strategy can be summed up this way: As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down, and then our troops can come home to a proud and grateful nation," Mr. Bush said.

But for now, he said, they are fighting for a revolution as meaningful - and inevitable - as the one being waged 229 years ago. "Our men and women in uniform are defending America against the threats of the 21st century," he said. "The war we are fighting came to our shores on September the 11th, 2001. After that day, I made a pledge to the American people - we will not wait to be attacked again."

It was the third time in recent years that Mr. Bush had visited West Virginia on the July 4 holiday, drawn to its nearness and increasingly Republican electorate at a time when many in the state are also active in the military. Republicans, having won the state's five electoral votes in the last two presidential elections, are now eyeing the possibility that Representative Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican often targeted by Democrats, will challenge the revered Democratic senator from the state, Robert C. Byrd, who is up for re-election in 2006. Ms. Capito and her father, Archie A. Moore, Jr., the former governor, joined Mr. Bush onstage.

But after a weekend of intense focus on the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and amid preparations for his attendance at the Group of 8 summit in Europe early Tuesday, President Bush avoided politics and kept to his patriotic message.

Karl Rove, his senior adviser, rode the flight from Washington to West Virginia but did not respond to requests for an interview over his reported role in a controversy that threatens to put two reporters in jail. Newsweek had reported over the weekend that Mr. Rove had talked to Matthew Cooper of Time magazine for an article about Valerie Plame, a C.I.A. operative whose name was illegally disclosed by an unidentified White House official in a case now under investigation.

The Newsweek article did not identify Mr. Rove as that source, but Bush critics have been eager to tie him to the leak. Outside the presidential rally in Morgantown, one protester made reference to the case, holding a sign that read: "Jail Karl Rove."

Several dozen other protesters demonstrated against the war in Iraq, chanting, "Please support our troops, not the president!"

But they were overwhelmed by Bush supporters. About 4,300 tickets to the event were given out by the Greater Morgantown Convention and Visitors' Bureau, according to its executive director, Stacey Brodak, who said the occasion brought great pride to the small college town just across the Pennsylvania border. The crowd, a sea of patriotic gear and military uniforms, gathered inside the campus green at West Virginia University for hours before the president arrived.

One local Bush supporter, Steve Smith, 57, a property manager, said he had left the house at 6 a.m. to get a good view. Like many in the crowd, Mr. Smith was wearing a vivid T-shirt that declared him "100 percent red-blooded American"; he described President Bush as "our greatest president ever."

Becky Dziekan, 52, said she had driven five hours from her home in Dayton, Ohio, to hear the president speak in the town where two of her daughters also live. "I wanted him to know he's not alone," said Ms. Dziekan, a Republican who voted for Mr. Bush.

But she stopped short of raving about his remarks. "For a celebration, it was sufficient. I mean, we're going to go have a picnic," she said. "I wouldn't want it for a State of the Union speech."

Jennifer Bayot contributed reporting from New York for this article.