Bush: Report Is an Opportunity for Common Ground
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. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.