The president's brusque dismissal of last week's critical report by Amnesty International came during a Rose Garden news conference in which Bush sought to counter speculation that he is losing his political clout.
Referring to Amnesty International's comparison of Guantanamo to a Soviet concentration camp, Bush declared, "It's just an absurd allegation." He said the government has investigated every complaint of abuse stemming from the arrest of thousands of detainees captured since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
With his approval rating at the lowest level of his presidency, Bush defended his policies on issues ranging from Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs to his embattled nomination of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Bush stood by his stem cell research policy, promoted his long-stalled energy program and insisted that Congress approve a Central American trade deal. He also indicated he would "consult" with the Senate on future judgeship nominations, but didn't give details or a timetable.
The president also suggested he wouldn't yield to Democratic objections to several of his judicial appointments by insisting he would seek candidates "of a certain temperament."
Bush struck his most unyielding stance in response to repeated questions about his proposal for revamping Social Security by giving workers the option of diverting a portion of their payroll taxes into private retirement accounts.
Democrats and interest groups have mobilized to scuttle the private accounts, and some Republicans appear to be skittish about embracing them even though Bush has spent months campaigning for his plan across the country.
Bush has indicated no inclination to drop the idea and seek a compromise.
"It's like water cutting through a rock," Bush said. "It's just a matter of time. And we're just going to keep working and working and working, reminding the American people that we have a serious problem and a great opportunity to act not as politicians, but as statesmen and women to solve a problem."
In addition, the Republican leadership in the Senate has been unable to bring the Bolton nomination to a vote, and the Republican-led House has passed a stem cell research bill that Bush has vowed to veto.
In the face of all those difficulties, Bush sounded combative.
"One thing is for certain. It takes a president willing to push people to do hard things," he said. "I feel . . . comfortable in my role as the president, and my role in the president is to push for reform. The American people appreciate a president who sees a problem and is willing to put it on the table."
With the war in Iraq, Bush said, "I think the Iraqi government will be up to the task of defeating the insurgents."
The Amnesty International report accused the U.S. government of thumbing its nose "at the rule of law and human rights" by its treatment of detainees. It spotlighted what many foreign policy experts say is a major problem in the administration's efforts to repair America's tattered image in Muslim countries.
In addition to castigating the administration for its treatment of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, the report also focused on conditions at Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison and the "renditions" of suspects to countries that routinely use torture.
Referring to the report, Bush said, "It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on . . . allegations by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to . . . not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report."
Reminded of an assertion that U.S. military action in Iraq would deter other nations – notably Iran and North Korea – from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, Bush sidestepped the suggestion that his promises had fallen short. He noted that Iran and North Korea had ongoing nuclear programs before the U.S. invasion of Iraq and contended that North Korea had resumed its effort by abrogating a deal with the Clinton administration.
In both cases, he reiterated his determination to use diplomacy to curb nuclear threats, with Germany, France and Britain taking the lead on Iran.
While acknowledging tensions with Beijing over Taiwan, Bush emphasized China's role in six-way talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions. The United States, Russia, Japan and South Korea are the other parties to the talks, which have been suspended for almost a year.
With the Bolton nomination and his choice of several federal judges entangled in Democratic delaying tactics in the Senate, Bush took a conciliatory approach toward the bipartisan deal that shelves the use of filibusters against some of his judicial nominees without ruling it out in all cases.
Bush praised the Senate for confirming Priscilla Owen as a federal appeals judge, but added that he is puzzled by language reserving the right to filibuster judicial nominees in "extraordinary circumstances."
"I don't know what that means," Bush said. "I guess we're about to find out when it comes to other appellate judges.
Vice President Dick Cheney says he's offended by a human rights group's report criticizing conditions at the prison camp for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay.
The report Amnesty International released last week said prisoners at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba had been mistreated and called for the prison to be shut down. Cheney derided the London-based group in an interview set to be broadcast Monday night on CNN's ``Larry King Live.''
``Frankly, I was offended by it,'' Cheney said in the videotaped interview. ``For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously.''
Cheney is the latest Bush administration official to object to the report. On Sunday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers called the Amnesty International report ``absolutely irresponsible.''
Washington's defense of its detention and interrogation practices comes after weeks of international criticism and violent protests by Muslims outraged at reports - which the Pentagon says are false - that an interrogator at Guantanamo had flushed pages of the Quran down a toilet.
Cheney said detainees at Guantanamo ``have been well treated, treated humanely and decently.''
``Occasionally there are allegations of mistreatment,'' Cheney said. ``But if you trace those back, in nearly every case, it turns out to come from somebody who had been inside and released to their home country and now are peddling lies about how they were treated.''
Some of the scores of prisoners who have been released from Guantanamo have said they were mistreated, while others have said they were not. Other allegations have surfaced in FBI reports and transcripts of review hearings the military held for the prisoners.
Pentagon officials say they have substantiated five cases where copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, were mistreated, although the military has refused to offer details other than to say none was ever flushed down a toilet.