WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2006 In an ABC News exclusive, President Bush said that a newspaper column comparing the current situation in Iraq and the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam, which was widely seen as the turning point in that war, might be accurate.

ABC News' George Stephanopoulos asked whether the president concurred with the assessment of columnist Tom Friedman, who wrote in the New York Times that the situation in Iraq may be equivalent to the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

"He could be right," the president said, before adding: "There's certainly a stepped up level of violence, and we're heading into an election."

"George, my gut tells me that they have all along been trying to inflict enough damage that we'd leave," Bush said. "And the leaders of al Qaeda have made that very clear. Look, here's how I view it. First of all, al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. They are dangerous. They are lethal. They are trying to not only kill American troops, but they're trying to foment sectarian violence. They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause government to withdraw."

Bush said he could not imagine any circumstances under which all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq before the end of his presidency.

"You mean every single troop out? No," he told Stephanopoulos.

Bush also had some tough words for Democrats, saying that pulling troops from Iraq would be the equivalent of surrender.

"If we were to leave before the job is done, in my judgment, the al Qaeda would find a safe haven from which to attack. This is exactly what they said," Bush said. The president insisted he was not disparaging his opponents.

"It's not questioning their patriotism, I think it's questioning their judgment," he said.

http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=2583579&page=1