Bush: Report Is an Opportunity for Common Ground

The Iraq Study Group presents its report on recommendations for Iraq policy today. Madeleine Brand talks to White House Correspondent Don Gonyea about President Bush's reaction to the report.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Whether or not the president will toss that report into the garbage, now we go to NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea.

And, Don, before their news conference, the panel members presented their report to the president. What was his reaction?

DON GONYEA: They had an early morning 7 a.m. meeting here at the White House. And the administration is being very careful to say that there's a lot to digest in this report, so there won't be any quickie, instant, substantive response from the president. Still, Mr. Bush is saying about what we would expect at this point. He knows this is a very credible group that prepared the report so he is praising the work that they've done. And he spoke about that in the cabinet room at the White House today.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I've told the members that this report called The Way Forward will be taken very seriously by this administration. It's a - this report gives a very tough assessment of the situation in Iraq. It is a report that brings some really very interesting proposals, and we will take every proposal seriously. And we will act in a timely fashion.

GONYEA: And, Madeleine, again the White House Press Secretary Tony Snow is stressing that they're not ready to begin reacting to any of the specific 79 proposals contained in the report beyond the president calling them, as we just heard, very interesting. And when he was asked if the White House, just generally speaking, is pleased with the report, Tony Snow parsed his words very carefully saying the White House is pleased with the tone of the report. So that's pretty much the kind of reaction we're getting over here today.

BRAND: The tone. Well, Don, that surprises me because as I was watching I couldn't help but think, gee, this is quite a stinging and serious rebuke to the president. And I wonder what he's thinking right now.

GONYEA: Well, here is the thing. The White House, again, they do have to praise this panel. I mean, James Baker has long ties to the president and his family, and they have to take it seriously. But they are also talking about other reports that are being done out there - one, out of the state department, one, out of the Pentagon. We all saw that Donald Rumsfeld memo last week, and one, from the national security adviser.

So they will put all of those together and the president will then act according. So he will not solely be acting on this report.

BRAND: And let's listen to a bit more from the president today where he actually praised the bipartisan manner in which the report was carried out.

President BUSH: The country, in my judgment, is tired of pure political bickering that happens in Washington. And they understand that on this important issue, a war and peace, it is best for our country to work together.

BRAND: You know, Don, James Baker today really stressed today, that there needs to be intense political and diplomatic efforts now. What are the chances of bipartisanship between the White House and the Democratically-controlled Congress?

GONYEA: That's one of those questions where we're literally just going to have to wait and see. It is worth noting though that the White House, the president himself, has been among the foremost combatants in using Iraq as a political weapon.

How many times have we heard him accused Democratic opponents of wanting to cut and run, or as he said on the campaign trail, if Republicans lose then the terrorists win. So it will be very, very interesting to see how ready he is to take his own counsel about bipartisanship today.

BRAND: NPR White House correspondent Don Gon - Don Gonyea, sorry about that.

GONYEA: That's all right.

BRAND: Don Gonyea. Say that three times. Thank you, Don.

GONYEA: All right. Take care. Thank you.

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Iraq Report Well Received in Washington

Reaction to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group was generally positive in Washington, D.C., Wednesday. President Bush promised to "take every proposal very seriously." Most congressional leaders praised the commission's blunt assessment of the shortcomings of current U.S. policy and its bipartisan approach to a way forward in Iraq. Read a sampling of reactions:

—- "This report gives a very tough assessment of the situation in Iraq. It is a report that brings some really very interesting proposals, and we will take every proposal seriously and we will act in a timely fashion… this report will give us all an opportunity to find common ground, for the good of the country — not for the good of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, but for the good of the country." - President Bush

—- "We do not recommend a stay-the-course solution; in our opinion, that approach is no longer viable." - James A. Baker III, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group

—- "The current approach is not working. And the ability of the United States to influence events is diminishing… Many Americans are understandably dissatisfied. Our ship of state has hit rough waters. It must now chart a new way forward." - Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group.

—- "We acknowledge that this is a tremendous step forward, and it will change course in Iraq. It's up to the president to fulfill his obligation, in my opinion, to the country, and follow the recommendations of this study group." - Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Democratic leader.

—- "Let's use this as a tool to advise the president, as all these recommendations that are coming to him from the Pentagon, from the Congress and from this study group. And let's speak with one voice as we move forward on Iraqi policy. I think that's the most important lesson and the most important track that the country could take right now." - Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., House Armed Services Committee chairman.

—- "If the president is serious about the need for change in Iraq, he will find Democrats ready to work with him in a bipartisan fashion to find a way to end the war as quickly as possible." - House Speaker-elect Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

—- "We will not accomplish victory by setting arbitrary deadlines or negotiating with hostile governments." - Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, House Republican leader.

—- "The report represents another blow at the policy of stay the course that this administration has followed. Hopefully, this will be the end of that stay-the-course policy… It is clearly strongly supporting changing the course in a number of ways." - Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

—- "Congress and the administration must carefully review the recommendations and implement those that offer the best opportunity to improve U.S. engagement in the Middle East." - House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich.

—- "Because these recommendations have bipartisan support from the ISG, I am encouraged that bipartisan consensus might be achieved within Congress and with the Administration, as well." - Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

—- "The report is an acknowledgment that there will be no military solution in Iraq. It will require a political solution arrived at through sustained Iraqi and region-wide diplomacy and engagement." - Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.

—- "We're going to hold extensive hearings… we're going to bring in every reasonable person we can find left, right and center, military, civilian and government to discuss elements of this report." - Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's incoming chairman.

—- "I feel encouraged, and I feel the stay-the-course strategy is officially dead." - Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif.

—- "Particularly in light of the advance billing given to the Iraq Study Group work, I found their report to be a little disappointing. Their recommendations range from the blindingly obvious, to the naive and simplistic, to the interesting but underdeveloped. I was expecting a steak dinner and we got hors d'oeuvres."- Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., chair of the House Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence.

—- "Today there is near consensus that there is no U.S. military solution and we must disengage our military from Iraq." - Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa.

—- "It's clear now that there is no one in America, perhaps save perhaps the president, who believes that staying the course is a viable option." - Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the incoming House majority leader.

—- "I commend the commission for its recommendation that we engage all regional players. I firmly believe in conducting dialogue even with people with whom we disagree." - Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., incoming chair of the House International Relations Committee.

—- "The verdict is in. There can no longer be any doubt that the violence and chaos in Iraq are getting worse, that our current strategy is failing, and that we need to work together on a new strategy that will make it possible for us to bring our troops home. The only question is whether the White House will heed this clarion call and agree to change the perilous course we have been on in Iraq since Saddam Hussein fell and the chaos began." - Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

—- "I think we all know there is no quick or easy way to complete the important mission in Iraq, and those who hoped this report would provide a get-done-quick solution will be disappointed. And though we won't reach agreement overnight, this is an opportunity for us to work in a bipartisan way with Democrats and the White House and reach consensus on one of the most critical issues before the Congress." - Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Republican Whip.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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