Monday, November 13, 2006

Incoming Armed Services Committee chairman: Iraq is 'first priority'

The incoming Armed Services Committee chairman, Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich), told reporters today that his first priority will be to pressure President Bush to "change the course in Iraq."

Meanwhile, Bush left an Oval Office meeting today with members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group – including his father's former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton – vowing not to "prejudge" the report it's set to release sometime before the year's end.

"I'm not sure what the report is going to say," Bush told reporters today. "I look forward to seeing it."

Earlier, White House spokesman told reporters that the meeting, closed to the press and public, wasn't a "deposition."

"Further, Snow said there was not a presentation of alternatives but rather an assessment of the situation on the ground now," the Associated Press reported.
But Levin's press conference today signals that Democrats plan to use their congressional election victories to try to influence a "different course" in Iraq.
"The first priority would be to find a way forward to change the course in Iraq," Levin said at a press conference. "That's the message that came through so clearly and powerfully last Tuesday from the American people."

Levin said that "most Democrats share the view that we should pressure the White House to commence the phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq in four to six months."

Beginning "that phased redeployment," Levin stated, would "make it clear to the Iraqis that our presence is not open-ended and that they must take and make the necessary political compromises to preserve Iraq as a nation."

Levin said that "we're getting deeper and deeper into a hole – that we should stop digging and that we should look for alternatives in order to promote the chances of success in Iraq."

Over the weekend, the White House seemed to hint that it would be open to listening to Democrats on Iraq.

"We clearly need a fresh approach," Bush's Chief of Staff Josh Bolten admitted on a morning talk show.


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