On Tuesday, 11 House Republicans met in the White House with Mr. Bush, Secretary of State Conti Rice, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and Assistant Chief of Staff Karl Rove to talk about Iraq. According to NBC's Tim Russert, one of the Congress members called the meeting the “most unvarnished conversation they’ve ever had with the president."
Considering that there's no record of anyone ever having an unvarnished conversation with young Mr. Bush, calling this one the "most unvarnished" conversation doesn't seem to say much at first blush, but another Congressman at the gathering in the White House solarium characterized the hour and fifteen minute meeting as “remarkable for the bluntness and no-holds-barred honesty in the message delivered by all these Republican congressmen.”
One Congressman told Mr. Bush, “My district is prepared for defeat. We need candor, we need honesty, Mr. President.” The Congressman went on to say, "The word about the war and its progress cannot come from the White House or even you, Mr. President. There is no longer any credibility. It has to come from General Petraeus.”
I'd say the jury is still out when it comes to Petraeus's credibility, but the Congressman is spot on about the White House. It has no credibility whatsoever, on Iraq or any other subject.
One of the Congressmen asked Bush, “How can our sons and daughters spill their blood while the Iraqi government goes on vacation?”
Bush answered “The vice president is over there to tell them, do not go on vacation.”
Oh, that's right. Cheney was out of town, barnstorming the Middle East. May that's why the Republican congressional delegation chose Tuesday to visit the White House and read Bush the riot act.
Cheney made an "unannounced" visit to Baghdad on Wednesday. The surprise aspect of the stop didn't stop somebody from setting off an explosion that rattled windows of the U.S. Embassy, where Cheney conferred with Iraqi military and political officials. I bet those Iraqi officials just love it when Dick stops by unannounced, and they have to sit in the same room with him, and talk to him.
At a news conference roughly an hour after the explosion, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he and Cheney discussed "practical steps" to improve security and domestic issues. Cheney and al-Maliki admitted there have been problems in reducing the violence in Iraq, but their governments will keep working together to find a solution.
One of those solutions might be for Parliament not to take two months off this summer. Aides said that Cheney made a "renewed request" to that effect. Interesting choice of words, "request." One would have preferred to hear that Cheney "demanded" they not take two months off, but Cheney doesn't have a whole lot going for him in the way of leverage. "Don't take two months off or else…" Or else what, Dick? Or else you'll yank your troops out of here? That's a heck of an ultimatum, considering withdrawal of U.S. troops is precisely what much of a significant number ofIraqi lawmakers want us to do.
Fewer than 48 hours after 11 of his party's members of Congress told him he no longer has any credibility regarding the Iraq war, Mr. Bush hit the airways in an attempt to convince the public of the success of his new "way forward." His real message was aimed at the congressional Democrats: "fund the troops and don't put any conditions on me."
He also accused Democrats of being more interested in the 2008 elections than in ending the war in Iraq. That's remarkable, considering that he told his little GOP Congress buddies on Tuesday that, "I don’t want to pass this off to another president. I don’t want to pass this off, particularly, to a Democratic president.”
No, Mr. Bush isn't worried about the 2008 elections at all. Nor are congressional Republicans. It's all those darn Democrats, that's all they care about: elections, elections, elections.
Oh, well. Mr. Bush is good at playing both sides of he fence without getting called on it. It's amusing to note that as Bush castigates the Democrats for trying to force timelines and benchmarks on they Iraqi government, those factors are doing more to get the Iraqi government off its tuffet than anything Mr. Bush and his party tried while it held a majority in Congress.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.