Bush's Bubble Breached

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, May 10, 2007; 4:30 PM

The significant breach in the Bush Bubble being widely reported today may be a sign that the president can no longer count on members of his own party to shield him from the ugly realities he has created.

The war in Iraq, and to a lesser extent the U.S. attorney firings, appear to be driving some previously protective Republicans to call it like they see it -- and where Bush can hear it.

Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman write in The Washington Post: "House Republican moderates, in a remarkably blunt White House meeting, warned President Bush this week that his pursuit of the war in Iraq is risking the future of the Republican Party and that he cannot count on GOP support for many more months.

"The meeting, which ran for an hour and a half Tuesday afternoon, was disclosed by participants yesterday. . . .

"'It was a very remarkable, candid conversation,' [Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.)] said. 'People are always saying President Bush is in a bubble. Well, this was our chance, and we took it.' . . .

"Participants in Tuesday's White House meeting said frustration about the Iraqi government's efforts dominated the conversation. . . . The House members pressed Bush and Gates hard for a 'Plan B' if the current troop increase fails to quell the violence and push along political reconciliation. Davis said that administration officials convinced him there are contingency plans, but that the president declined to offer details, saying that if he announced his backup plan, the world would shift its focus to that contingency, leaving the current strategy no time to succeed. . . .

"[Presidential press secretary Tony] Snow, who sat in on the meeting in the president's private quarters, said it should not be overdramatized or seen as another 'marching up to Nixon,' a reference to the critical moment during Watergate in 1974 when key congressional Republicans went to the White House to tell President Richard M. Nixon that it was time to resign.

"'This is not one of those great cresting moments when party discontents are coming in to read the president the riot act,' he said. But Snow acknowledged that the meeting included some blunt, if respectful, discussion."

Here is video of Tim Russert describing the meeting to Brian Williams on NBC: "'Brian, all eyes on the Republican Party. How long will they support the president's position on the Iraq war?

"Yesterday may have been the defining, pivotal moment. At 2:30 in the afternoon, in the private quarters of the White House, the solarium room, 11 Republican congressmen had a private meeting with the president, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the chief political advisor, Karl Rove, and White House Press Secretary Tony Snow and others. This delegation was headed by Mark Kirk of Illinois and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.

"It was, in the words of one of the participants, the most unvarnished conversation they've ever had with the president. Another member said he has met with three presidents and never been so candid. They told the president, and one said, quote, '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 went on to say, 'The word about the war and its progress cannot come from the White House or even you, Mr. President. There's no longer any credibility. It has to come from Gen. Petraeus.'"

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