George W. Bush took time out of his five-week Crawford vacation today to meet with Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld and then with a gaggle of reporters afterward. The president still hasn't found a moment yet for Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq who has set up camp outside his ranch, but he wants y'all to know something: He feels her pain.
Bush said that he knows "there's a lot of folks here in the United States that are, you know, wondering about troop withdrawals. They're concerned about the violence and the death. They hear the stories about a loved one being lost to combat. And, you know, I grieve for every death. It breaks my heart to think about a family weeping over the loss of a loved one. I understand the anguish that some feel about the death that takes place."
When asked whether he was referring specifically to Cindy Sheehan, the president said: "I'm referring to any grieving mother or father, no matter what their political views may be," he said. "Part of my duty as the president is to meet with those who've lost a loved one. And so, you know, listen, I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan. She feels strongly about her -- about her position. And I am -- she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She has a right to her position. And I've thought long and hard about her position. I've heard her position from others, which is, get out of Iraq now. And it would be -- it would be a mistake for the security of this country and the ability to lay the foundations for peace in the long-run, if we were to do so."
Bush downplayed even the notion that a significant number of U.S. troops could come home by spring. Bush said that such talk -- much of which has come come from military officials who work for him -- is "kind of what we call speculation."