The White House Responds
"The War Within" portrays President Bush as slow to act in the summer of 2006 when he realizes that the Iraq war strategy is failing. Bush waited several months before ordering a full strategy review, and no one from the military was involved. The review was done "under the radar screen" to avoid political fallout, Woodward writes. On Monday, after the book's release, White House press secretary Dana Perino made the following comments about Woodward's assessment:
"I would submit to you that President Bush initiated and oversaw a very comprehensive, thorough, well-managed process . . . Some people might say that it was too slow in its development. But when you are making a decision where you are asking young men and women to put their lives on the line, it was the right type of assessment. It was sober; it was very clear-eyed; it was brutal in terms of the amount of hours.
"And I also take issue with the notion about a war within. I can't imagine that anybody in Washington would be shocked that if you bring people together to talk about one of the most difficult problems in our time, that they might have a disagreement over what is the best option. And in fact, we should all want that to happen.
"In addition, there is no possible way that you can have such a debate in public. We're not going to have this debate on CNN or Fox or MSNBC or ABC, CBS, NBC. There's just no way to do that. There are discussions that need to be taken in very private quarters so that everybody can feel confident that what they're saying and laying out there on the table will be held in confidence, and that the president can get the best advice and not be constrained by any options that might be put on the table."