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Hawks Meet to Lick Wounds
Published on Thursday, December 7, 2006 by the New York Daily News
Hawks Meet to Lick Wounds
by Kenneth R. Bazinet

WASHINGTON - President Bush and some of the most vocal Capitol Hill backers of the Iraq war from both parties gathered yesterday for what an insider described as a group therapy session.

"Or maybe it was more like an intervention," said the source, reconsidering the description. "And the President was grateful and welcoming."

Bush met with a grim-looking gaggle of 14 lawmakers and several White House staffers hours after the Iraq Study Group issued its report urging the President to order an about-face on his Iraq strategy.

"It means a lot to me, and I think it means a lot to the American people, to recognize that there are people in this town who are concerned more about the security of this country than they are about the security of their own political positions," Bush said, according to the insider.

"And I'm proud to be with you. I want to thank you for your thoughts. I take your comments very seriously," he told the gathering, which included a few Iraq war critics.

The source said Bush didn't try to disguise his humility and his conciliatory gestures seemed legitimate. "He knows there's a new math in town - the Democrats have Congress," the insider said.

Their wings clipped by the Iraq Study Group's report, the hawks who met with Bush included his pal Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Independent-Conn.), California Rep. Jane Harman, who lost her job as top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a 2008 presidential hopeful who wants to send more troops to Iraq.

A sourpussed Vice President Cheney and political guru Karl Rove were among the top administration officials who looked on as the President was advised on how to change course in Iraq, boost Arab allies such as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, keep a cautious eye on threats including Iran and work with the new Democratic majority.

"There was a tremendous amount of candor in the room," said Rep. Gary Ackerman, the lone New York Democrat in the session. "It was optimistic in that he didn't dismiss any of the ideas. He heard us all out."

© 2006 Daily News, L.P.


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