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Bush Calls for Sunnis to Choose Democracy

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

President Bush today gave an upbeat assessment of the work being done on a new Iraqi Constitution. That's despite the fact that negotiators are still working on it more than a week after the original deadline. Speaking in Idaho, he also delivered a pointed response to protesters who've gathered outside his Texas ranch this month. They're calling for the US to withdraw from Iraq. NPR's Don Gonyea reports from Boise.

DON GONYEA reporting:

The president is here preparing for a speech he's scheduled to give tomorrow to an audience of National Guard families. Today was a day off for Mr. Bush, who spoke with reporters in the small resort town of Donnelly, where he's staying. Asked about the difficulty in reaching an agreement on an Iraqi Constitution, the president said he was hopeful and pointed out that developing a US Constitution more than 200 years ago was also difficult. Asked about worries within Iraq that Sunni dissatisfaction with the process could lead to more violence, the president was blunt.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: And, you know, you talk about, you know, the Sunnis rising up--I mean, the Sunnis have got to make a choice. Do they want to live in a society that's free, or do they want to live in violence?

GONYEA: Mr. Bush also addressed the topic of anti-war demonstrations taking place across the country. He was asked about Cindy Sheehan, the woman who lost a son in Iraq and whose protest outside the president's Texas ranch has made her a symbol of the anti-war movement in the US this summer. The president said he respects her right to protest before adding...

Pres. BUSH: She expressed her opinion; I disagree with it. I think immediate withdrawal from Iraq would be a mistake. I think those advocate immediate withdrawal from not only Iraq but the Middle East would be--are advocating a policy that would weaken the United States.

GONYEA: During this brief session with the press, Mr. Bush also praised Israel for removal of settlements from Gaza. He said it's now up to the Palestinians to take steps toward building a peaceful state in the region. Don Gonyea, NPR News, with the president in Boise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.