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"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Bush aides berate GOP members

Bush aides berate GOP members
By Jonathan E. Kaplan
May 11, 2007

Top Bush administration officials lashed out at a pair of House Republicans at the White House yesterday after details about a contentious meeting between President Bush and GOP legislators were leaked to the media earlier this week.

The confrontations are the latest indications of an intensifying rift between Bush and congressional Republicans.

Reps. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) attracted the ire of White House officials for allegedly speaking to reporters about a Tuesday meeting between Bush and centrist Republicans on the Iraq war. Details of the contentious meeting first emerged Wednesday evening and attracted Page 1 headlines yesterday.

Sources said that Dan Meyer, Bush’s liaison to the House, confronted LaHood while White House political strategist Karl Rove rebuked Kirk. It is unclear if LaHood or Kirk were the originial sources for the stories, but LaHood was quoted in one of the articles.

Regardless, LaHood and Meyer got into a shouting match as emotions ran high and voices were raised yesterday morning in the White House while lawmakers were waiting to meet with first lady Laura Bush, according to two legislators who witnessed the exchange.

LaHood and five other GOP lawmakers met with Mrs. Bush in the Yellow Oval in the White House residence to chat about the No Child Left Behind law.

“The White House is not happy,” said a Republican lawmaker.

Two GOP lawmakers said that Rove admonished Kirk for talking to the media about the private meeting.

Kirk and the White House declined to comment.

During his briefing yesterday, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said the exchanges between Bush and congressional Republicans were “respectful” and “interesting.”

“And I think a lot of members, when they get into a situation like that, they’re excited about the prospect that they do in fact have an opportunity to speak at liberty with the president, so they do it,” Snow added.

The fracas between congressional Republicans and the White House delighted Democrats. During the House Democratic Caucus meeting yesterday morning, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the caucus chairman, told Democrats to stick together on the vote on the Iraq supplemental spending bill while the GOP splinters.

Yesterday’s imbroglios indicate that congressional Republicans, who lost their majorities in Congress partly because of the Iraq war, are growing more frustrated with Bush and are willing to openly defy him.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, LaHood implied that Bush’s credibility on Iraq has eroded, saying that “the biggest benchmark of all is [General David] Petraeus’s report in September.”

Snow refuted suggestions that the war has fractured Republican unity, but acknowledged that members of Congress are “impatient.”

“And as the president pointed out [yesterday], yes, he’s impatient, too,” Snow added.

In a sign of how much the politics of Iraq have deteriorated for the GOP, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) – a member of House Republican leadership — compared Bush’s political problems to then President Truman’s in 1952. President Eisenhower subsequently won the presidency and Republicans captured the House.

“We’re probably slightly behind where Truman was” with his Democratic Party in 1951 and 1952, McCotter said. “History has vindicated Truman…fortunately I don’t see a Democratic Eisenhower out there.”

Several lawmakers who attended one or both meetings did not fault Bush, but blamed his aides for overreacting.

“They can have such thick skin,” said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who attended the meeting on Tuesday. “[President Bush] ought to embrace this and be seen as getting input from everyone.”

The meeting with Laura Bush ended with a 20-minute tour of the White House residence, which is off-limits to almost everyone except the First Family.

LaHood drew a crowd of more than a dozen reporters yesterday in the Speaker’s Lobby off of the House floor to elaborate on the meeting on Tuesday.

LaHood, who was passed over to lead the Intelligence Committee in 2004, is not shy about expressing his views.

During the 109th Congress, the 7th-term lawmaker publicly criticized then Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) as well as then House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

A GOP rank-and-file lawmaker said that LaHood’s recent comments were a “nuisance” and made some members “pretty upset.”

“He’s his own man,” said a former senior GOP aide. “A lot of the members and members of leadership say that Ray talks too much.”

Still, some top GOP aides said LaHood’s candidness was not unusual and did not cause a flap within the conference.

“Ray’s been here a long time,” Hastert said. “He’s a stand up guy and he says what he thinks.”


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