WASHINGTON -- President Bush's first weekend at war was to be spent at his Camp David mountaintop retreat, where he was gathering his Cabinet after declaring Friday that U.S. troops were making progress in Iraq.
Shortly after a massive aerial assault on Baghdad began, the president left the White House aboard his Marine One helicopter with his wife, Laura, and one of their daughters, Barbara. He told congressional leaders earlier the war was going well.
"We are making progress," he said as lawmakers gathered in the Oval Office at midmorning.
"We will stay on task until we've achieved our objective, which is rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and free the Iraqi people so they can live in a society that is hopeful, democratic and at peace with its neighbors," he said.
Bush, commander in chief of 250,000 U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf, said, "All of us involved here in Washington are extremely proud of the skill and bravery of our young Americans who are willing to sacrifice for something greater than themselves."
The president thanked Democratic and Republican lawmakers for their support of U.S. troops.
Then, he was off to Camp David under more intense security than usual.
Several foreign policy aides, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, planned to join Bush on Saturday. The Marine-run facility 60 miles from the White House is equipped with advanced communications allowing the president to keep tabs on the war and other world events.
The White House said he was following a precedent set by his father, who led the nation in the first Persian Gulf War. The elder Bush spent the first weekend of that conflict away from the White House, official said.
Friday was the second straight day that Bush had summoned reporters and photographers into a White House meeting. In both cases, he refused to take questions about the status of the war.
Besides the war, Bush and the lawmakers discussed the federal budget. On Thursday, the House passed a $2.2 trillion measure that endorses his plan to cut taxes by $726 billion over the coming decade.
On Friday, however, the Senate voted to take $100 billion over the next 10 years from Bush's proposed new tax cuts to pay for the war with Iraq. "We cannot blithely go along as if this were a time for business as usual," said Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis.
Bush is the 12th chief executive to use the woodsy compound in western Maryland's Catoctin Mountains. When his father was president, the 143-acre camp was practically a second family home where George and Barbara Bush, their children and grandchildren spent much time.
The Navy, which built the place for Franklin D. Roosevelt during the depression, called it Camp Three. Roosevelt changed that to the more fanciful Shangri-La. Dwight D. Eisenhower changed it anew to the simpler Camp David, a nod to his 5-year-old grandson and his father, Davids both.