26th April 23:39
Bush rocked by Senate rebellion on Iraq - OT (agent sense agency control authority)
Bush rocked by Senate rebellion on Iraq
Republicans urge president to get a grip as
funding revolt further undermines his authority
Julian Borger in Washington
Saturday October 18, 2003
A Republican rebellion in the Senate
against White House plans for rebuilding
Iraq raised questions yesterday about
President George Bush's authority in
Washington as he struggles to maintain
control of a divided administration.
A late-night Senate vote to turn half the
$20bn (£12bn) Iraq reconstruction budget
into a loan marked a serious setback for
the administration, which had wanted all
the money in the form of a grant. It also
came as a personal defeat for the president.
On Tuesday, Mr Bush had called in nine
Republican rebels and ordered them to
support his version of the bill, reportedly
slamming a table at one point and refusing
to answer their questions.
The outburst did him little good. Eight
Republican senators voted against the
administration on Thursday. One rebel,
Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, said: "It
was very difficult to stop this train
because it made so much sense."
It may prove to be a pivotal moment for the
Bush government. Senators of either party
defy a popular president at their peril,
but this president is no longer all that
popular, particularly when it comes to US
involvement in Iraq. Fewer than 50% of
Americans believe that Mr Bush's leadership
can be relied on in a crisis.
The failure to stabilise Iraq and the
near-daily death toll among US troops is
undoubtedly weighing down the White House
as it sets out on its reelection campaign.
An attempt to assert direct control on the
management of the occupation earlier this
month with the creation of a centralised
"Iraq stabilisation group" under the
president's national security adviser,
Condoleezza Rice, served only to drive
tensions in the administration to the surface.
Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, who
had until then jealously guarded his
exclusive control of the situation, openly
revolted against the restructuring. He told
journalists he had not been consulted and
assured them that it was irrelevant.
According to a report by the Knight Ridder
news agency, quoting a senior official, a
frustrated president wondered aloud whether
the internecine fighting had reached
historic levels. "This isn't as bad as
[George] Shultz versus [Caspar] Weinberger,
is it?" Mr Bush asked, referring to a
legendary duel within the Reagan
administration. One senior official
reportedly nodded and said: "Way worse."
One alarmed senate Republican, Richard
Lugar, called for Mr Bush to get a grip.
"The president has to be the president," he
said. "That means the president over the
vice-president, and over the secretaries of
state and defence. And Dr Rice cannot carry
that burden alone."
As a darkening cloud gathers over the White
House, it also has to contend with a
FBI investigators are questioning White
House staff to find who leaked the name of
an undercover CIA officer in July,
apparently to discredit the agent's
husband, a critic of the administration.
The incident has infuriated conservative
Republicans, who believe that the president
should have demanded the identities of the
leakers and dismissed them. The critics
from his party were all the more outraged
when the president suggested that the
culprits might never be found.
William Kristol, the editor of the
neo-conservative magazine the Weekly
Standard, said the leak scandal and the
president's response illustrated "the
disarray within his administration",
observing that "the civil war in the Bush
administration has become crippling".
department and the defence department
aren't working together at all. We are way
beyond 'fruitful tension' and all the other
normal excuses for bureaucratic conflict.
This is a situation that only the president
The White House has responded with a
campaign of speeches by the president and
his senior aides intended to reaffirm US
resolve and to insist that things in Iraq
are not as bad as they seem. Instead, the
president has argued, the press is to
blame, for '"filtering" out good news.
The finger-pointing over an increasingly
unpopular military involvement, and the
finger-waving at the media reminded Robert
Dallek, a presidential historian, of
another president and another debilitating
war: Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam. "I think
there is an emerging quality to the
tensions Bush faces and his reactions to
the criticism that is reminiscent of
Johnson in Vietnam," said Professor Dallek.
"If the enterprise in Iraq keeps faltering
this is George W Bush's war, just as
Vietnam became Johnson's war."
There is worse to come for Mr Bush in the
next few weeks. The leak investigation is
expected to gather steam and will either
produce a culprit close to the Oval Office
or provoke claims of a whitewash.
Then, on November 7, humiliation looms. His
most ferocious critic in the Senate -
Edward Kennedy, who recently called the
Iraq war a fraud "made up in Texas" - will
receive an award for "excellence in public
service". It will be presented in Texas by
the man who selected Senator Kennedy for
the honour: George Bush, the president's
Sea of troubles in a stormy month
October 1 The justice department announces
it has launched an inquiry into the White
House leak identifying a CIA undercover agent
October 2 The Iraq survey group, under
weapons expert David Kay admits that six
months after Baghdad's fall no weapons of
mass destruction have been found
October 4 The foundation run by the
president's father announces it will bestow
the George Bush Award for Excellence in
Public Service to Senator Edward Kennedy,
arguably the president's sternest critic,
who denounced the Iraq war as "a fraud"
October 6 The White House confirms that
management of the Iraq occupation will be
centralised in a new coordinating group run
by the national security adviser,
October 7 The defence secretary, Donald
Rumsfeld, says he was not told about the
restructuring and insists there have been
no real changes
October 15 Senate votes against president
and insists that half Iraq's $20bn
reconstruction budget should be in the form