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Amid turmoil, Bush reaches out

Strives to bolster public support for war policies

NORFOLK, Va. -- At a turbulent point in his presidency, President Bush yesterday sought to bolster public backing for his war policies, just days after the US death toll in Iraq surpassed 2,000.

''We will never back down, we will never give in, and we will never accept anything less than complete victory," the president said.

Delivering remarks nearly identical to those he gave earlier this week, the president spoke in a largely friendly environment -- a community with an enormous military presence in a state he won comfortably over Democrat John F. Kerry last fall during a reelection race dominated by national security.

''Thanks for the chance to get out of Washington," Bush told his audience, made up heavily of military members.

Back in Washington, the White House had still been awaiting the results of a special prosecutor's investigation of two top aides in connection with the leak of a CIA operative's identity. Later in the day, vice presidential adviser I. Lewis ''Scooter" Libby Jr. resigned after being indicted on charges of obstruction of justice, making false statements, and perjury in the case.

Karl Rove, Bush's closest adviser, was not indicted but remained under investigation.

The president's advisers also were wrestling over a new nomination to the Supreme Court in place of Harriet Miers, who withdrew her name from consideration Thursday. It was a stunning setback for a president whose popularity is at record lows, his poll numbers dragged down by a host of troubles including Iraq and soaring gas prices.

Bush's new bid to turn public opinion on the Iraq war and focus attention away from his troubles in Washington resembles an election campaign. The speech in Norfolk was nearly the same as the one he delivered Tuesday in Washington. And that speech was a virtual repeat of an Oct. 6 address.

Outside the Norfolk convention hall, a small group of antiwar protesters greeted him by chanting, ''Bush lies."

Inside, as the president spoke, a man on the second level interrupted him, yelling: ''Mr. President, war is terrorism. War is terrorism. Step down now, Mr. President. Torture is terrorism." Bush continued speaking as security officials escorted the man from the hall.

Bush was speaking in Virginia just days before voters elect a new governor. But Republican candidate Jerry Kilgore, who served as chairman of Bush's reelection campaign in the state last year, did not appear with the president.

Kilgore denied that he was one of a growing number of GOP candidates across the country who are distancing themselves from the president and the war. He has said he wasn't invited.

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