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Bush helps Talent raise $1 million


St. Louis, MO – A spokesman for U.S. Senator Jim Talent says President Bush helped Talent raise about $1 million Wednesday night in Clayton.

The Missouri Republican has nearly $5.7 million in the bank for this fall's campaign. He's expected to face Democrat Claire McCaskill, who has about $2 million.

About 200 people protested outside the fund-raiser, focusing on issues like minimum wage and war in Iraq.

Inside, President Bush accused Democrats of waving "the white flag of surrender" with proposals that would bring the troops home from Iraq and insisted that he will keep combat forces fighting as long as they are needed to achieve victory.

Offering a spirited defense of his national security policies, Bush also said there was "no excuse" for newspapers to disclose a secret government program that tracked millions of financial records in search of terrorist suspects. Bush said the program had been a vital tool in the war on terror when it was reported last week in the media.

"There can be no excuse for anyone entrusted with vital intelligence to leak it, and no excuse for any newspaper to print it," Bush said.

Bush's statement, which he read from a piece of paper during a speech at a political fundraiser, won a standing ovation from the Republican faithful.

With opposition to the war threatening to hurt the GOP in this fall's congressional elections, Bush gave an impassioned plea for voters to re-elect Republicans who have supported his national security policies. He repeatedly pointed his finger in the air to emphasize his points and at several points his voice rose to a shout.

"Make no mistake about it, there's a group in the opposition party who are willing to retreat before the mission is done," Bush said. "They're willing to wave the white flag of surrender. And if they succeed, the United States will be worse off and the world will be worse off."

Last week, the Senate overwhelmingly rejected a resolution by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., that would have pulled all U.S. troops out of Iraq over the next year. Only 13 senators supported it, while 39 supported a more moderate measure that would have urged the administration to start withdrawing troops by year's end.

Bush's visit to Missouri also included a special meeting with Andrew Benecke, 18, whose academic achievements earned him the honor of being named a Presidential Scholar this year. But Benecke's treatments for bone cancer meant he couldn't come to the White House for a special ceremony Monday for all the winners.

Instead, Bush presented the St. Louis teenager with his medal under the wing of Air Force One, as his beaming parents looked on.