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Cheney's Mystery Visitors

Bush Aide Back to Iraq

Two months ago, Meghan O'Sullivan said she would leave her post as the top White House staff member on Iraq to pursue opportunities outside of government. Seems like those opportunities are being put on hold, at least for the summer.

At the request of Bush and Gen. David H. Petraeus, O'Sullivan is headed back to Iraq, where she will be working with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker for the next several months on helping the Iraqis meet political benchmarks the United States is insisting on to achieve national reconciliation. These include measures to distribute oil revenue throughout the country, hold provincial elections and allow former Baathists back into the government. Bush disclosed the new assignment after meeting with Iraqi President Jalal T alabani at the White House on Thursday.

"Meghan has been a integral part of our team here at the White House," Bush told reporters after the meeting. "She has been in Iraq before. She's going back to serve with Ambassador Crocker, to help the Iraqis -- and to help the embassy help the Iraqis -- meet the benchmarks that the Congress and the president expect to get passed. I want to thank Meghan for her dedicated service to a free Iraq."

O'Sullivan, 37, worked in Iraq as an aide to the first U.S. administrator, Jay Garner, and then for L. Paul Bremer, and she is well acquainted with many of the leading personalities and the byzantine politics of Iraq. That's probably the attraction for Bush and Petraeus, since achieving a stable political settlement in Iraq is as much a challenge for the United States as maintaining security.

O'Sullivan will leave for Iraq this week, and her NSC duties will be taken over by the new "war czar," Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, who is awaiting Senate confirmation for his posting. Lute is scheduled to appear this week before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Director of Political Affairs

Bush did not stray far in finding a political affairs director to replace the departed Sara Taylor. On Friday, the White House announced that Jonathan D. Felts would take over the post. Felts, a North Carolina native, served most recently as head of political affairs for Cheney. Earlier, he served as associate director of the White House Office of Political Affairs and as North Carolina executive director of Bush-Cheney '04.

Quote of the Week

Former House speaker and possible 2008 GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on the current state of the Republican Party, which he said has not been in worse shape since Watergate:

"Let me be clear: 28 percent approval of the president, losing every closely contested Senate seat except one, every one that involved an incumbent -- that's a collapse," Gingrich said in an interview with the New Yorker.

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