NBC: 11 Republicans Berate Bush Over Iraq In Private White House Meeting

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"NBC: 11 Republicans Berate Bush Over Iraq In Private White House Meeting"

In a sign of the growing fissure between the White House and its congressional allies over the war, NBC News reports tonight that 11 Republican members of Congress pleaded yesterday with President Bush and his senior aides to change course in Iraq.

The group of Republicans was led by Reps. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Charlie Dent (R-PA), and the meeting included Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Karl Rove, and Tony Snow. One member of Congress called the discussion the “most unvarnished conversation they’ve ever had with the president,” and NBC’s Tim Russert said it “may have been a defining pivotal moment” in the Iraq debate.

Russert described the conversation:

[O]ne said “My district is prepared for defeat. We need candor, we need honesty, Mr. President.” The president responded, “I don’t want to pass this off to another president. I don’t want to pass this off, particularly, to a Democratic president,” underscoring he understood how serious the situation was.

Brian, the Republican congressman then 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 Gen. Petraeus.” The meeting lasted an hour and 15 minutes and was, in the words of one, “remarkable for the bluntness and no-holds-barred honesty in the message delivered by all these Republican congressmen.”

Watch the report:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/05/russert524.320.240.flv]

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UPDATE: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) also attended the meeting.

Transcript:

WILLIAMS: Tonight we’re also able to report new and exclusive details on the politics of the war in Iraq, specifically involving President Bush and members of his own party. For that we are joined by our Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert. What do we know?

RUSSERT: Brian, all eyes on the Republican Party. How long will they support the president’s position on the Iraq war? Yesterday may have been a defining pivotal moment. At 2:30 in the afternoon in the private quarters of the White House, the Salarium room, 11 Republican congressmen had a private meeting with the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the chief political adviser Karl Rove and the White House Press Secretary Tony Snow and others. It was headed by Mark Kirk of Illinois and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. It was, in the words of one of the parties, the “most unvarnished conversation they’ve ever had with the president.” Another member said he has met with three presidents and never have been so can candid. They told the president, and one said, “My district is prepared for defeat. We need candor, we need honesty, Mr. President.” The president responded, “I don’t want to pass this off to another president. I don’t want to pass this off, particularly, to a Democratic president,” underscoring he understood how serious the situation was. Brian, the Republican congressman then 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 Gen. Petraeus.” The meeting lasted an hour and 15 minutes and was, in the words of one, “remarkable for the bluntness and no-holds-barred honesty in the message delivered by all these Republican congressmen.”

WILLIAMS: And Tim, in the seconds remaining, how did the president react, and how then did this affect the instructions for Vice President Cheney heading off to Iraq.

RUSSERT: One congressman said, “How can our sons and daughters spill their blood while the Iraqi government goes on vacation?” The president responded, “The vice president is over there to tell them, do not go on vacation.”

Tim, as always, thanks.

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