Bush reaches beyond inner circle on Iraq policyAssociated Press
Fri Jan 6, 2006 3:00 AM GMT
By Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush reached beyond his tight circle of trusted aides on Thursday to solicit views on Iraq of former secretaries of state and defence, including some who have publicly criticised his policy.
The meeting, part of the president's effort to defend his policies on Iraq and the war on terrorism as he tries to recover from low opinion poll ratings, took place as insurgent violence surged anew this week in Iraq.
"Not everybody around this table agreed with my decision to go into Iraq and I fully understand that," Bush said, adding that he had listened to their concerns and suggestions. "We take to heart the advice."
The former officials who served in administrations dating back to President John Kennedy, met with Bush, current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. [...]
Bush, Ex-Policymakers, Discuss IraqNew York Times
By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer Thu Jan 5, 4:38 PM ET
WASHINGTON - President Bush brought foreign policy heavyweights from yesteryear to the White House on Thursday, including Democrats who have opposed his Iraq strategy. He got support for the mission — along with a few concerns — and a right to claim he was reaching out.
Waging an unpopular war that has dragged down his approval ratings, Bush has been campaigning to win the public over to his argument that he has a successful strategy for stabilizing Iraq and bringing American troops home.
As part of that effort, Bush brought to the White House more than a dozen former secretaries of state and defense, split almost evenly between Republican and Democratic administrations, for a detailed briefing and give-and-take.
He gambled that one-time high-level public officials, when personally summoned by the president, would resist temptation to be too critical.
He was right.
"When you are in the presence of the president of the United States, I don't care if you've been a devout Democrat for the last hundred years, you're likely to pull your punches to some degree," Lawrence Eagleburger, a secretary of state under former President George H.W. Bush, said as he left the White House. "Now, there was some criticism. But it was basically, `You haven't talked to the American people enough.' And it was very mild."
The unusual gathering in the Roosevelt Room began with an update by Gen. George Casey, the top American commander in Iraq, and Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad. But speaking to reporters afterward, Bush emphasized the portion of the meeting in which he asked the former secretaries to offer "their concerns, their suggestions."
"Not everybody around this table agreed with my decision to go into Iraq. I fully understand that," the president said, his guests arrayed silently around him. "But these are good solid Americans who understand that we've got to succeed now that we're there. I'm most grateful for the suggestions they've given."
Madeleine Albright, a secretary of state under President Clinton and a critic of Bush's decision to invade Iraq, praised Bush for holding the meeting.
Albright said she felt she had no choice but to attend, despite political differences with Bush.
"Clearly I didn't go there as a prop," she said. "We can't say we want to be consulted and then, when asked, not go.""
: (via Atrios
Bush and Former Cabinet Members Discuss Topic No. 1: Iraq
By DAVID E. SANGER
Published: January 5, 2006
WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 - Colin Powell said nothing - a silence that spoke volumes to many in the White House today.
His predecessor, Madeleine Albright, was a bit riled after hearing an exceedingly upbeat 40-minute briefing to 13 living former secretaries of state and defense about how well things are going in Iraq. Saying the war in Iraq was "taking up all the energy" of President Bush's foreign policy team, she asked Mr. Bush whether he had let nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea spin out of control, and Latin America and China policy suffer by benign neglect.
"I can't let this comment stand," Mr. Bush shot back, telling Ms. Albright and the rare assembly of her colleagues, who reached back to the Kennedy White House, that his administration "can do more than one thing at a time."
The Bush administration, the president insisted, had "the best relations of any country with Japan, China and Korea," and active programs to win alliances around the world.
That was, according to some of the participants, one of the few moments of heat during an unusual White House effort to bring some of its critics into the fold and give a patina of bipartisan common ground to the strategy that Mr. Bush has laid out in recent weeks for Iraq.
But if it was a bipartisan consultation, as advertised by the White House, it was a brief one. Mr. Bush allowed 5 to 10 minutes this morning for interchange with the group - which included three veterans of another difficult war, the one in Vietnam: Robert S. McNamara, Melvin R. Laird and James R. Schlesinger. Then the entire group was herded the Oval Office for what he called a "family picture."
"Five to ten minutes" to discuss Iraq?