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Bush taps Fielding as new White House counsel
Law & Politics | 2007/01/09 18:41

US President George Bush announced Tuesday that Fred F. Fielding will serve as the new White House counsel. Fielding, who has advised Bush throughout his presidency and sat on the 9/11 Commission, will replace Harriet Miers, who announced her resignation last week. Bush praised Miers, saying "she has devoted herself to the rule of law and the cause of justice," and called Fielding "uniquely qualified" to replace her.

Fielding served as General Counsel to President Reagan from 1981-86 and deputy counsel under President Nixon from 1970-72, and is regarded by observers as having the political experience that Bush may need to face challenges to executive authority from the new Democratically-controlled Congress. Fielding, 67, leaves his position as a partner at Wiley, Rein and Fielding in Washington, DC.

Bush to deliver his new strategy for war in Iraq
Law & Politics | 2007/01/08 18:56

President Bush will deliver a much-anticipated address to the nation Wednesday night on his new strategy for the war in Iraq. Media reports say the president is expected to announce an increase of as many as 20,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. New Democratic leaders in Congress have already criticized the idea of a surge in forces, saying they do not believe that adding combat troops will contribute to success.

Also Monday, White House officials say President Bush will nominate U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad to be Washington's representative to the United Nations. White House spokesman Tony Snow says U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Ryan Crocker will replace Khalilzad in Iraq. Snow says an official announcement is expected from the State Department later today.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Khalilzad would replace John Bolton. Before taking the position in Iraq, Khalilzad served as Ambassador to Afghanistan from November 2003 to June 2005. During that time, he also served as the special presidential envoy to Afghanistan. A report today in The New York Times says Mr. Bush's new Iraq strategy will set a series of goals for the Iraqi government to meet.

The newspaper says the U.S. "benchmarks" will call for Iraqi leaders to draw more Sunni Muslims into the political process and ease restrictions on members of the formerly ruling Baath Party.

US sends mixed messages on Saddam's execution
Law & Politics | 2007/01/04 07:45
US forces left security during Saddam Hussein's execution to Iraqi authorities Saturday but would have handled the hanging "differently", US Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said during a press conference in Baghdad Wednesday.

Caldwell said that US-led coalition forces transported Saddam to the execution site, left him in the care of Iraqi authorities, and then withdrew from the premises, and had no part in the searching of witnesses for unauthorized media equipment, including mobile phones and video devices: “We were not involved in any search of any people, we had nobody present, we did not dictate any requirements that had to be followed. … The multinational force had absolutely no direct involvement with that whatsoever.”

The release of an unofficial video of the hanging, allegedly taken by a witness with a camera phone, has prompted protests from Sunnis, outrage outside of Iraq, and an investigation by the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki into its taping and distribution. The video shows that Saddam was taunted by his guards before the hanging took place.

Bush Looking Forward to Working with New Congress
Law & Politics | 2007/01/03 19:31

President Bush says the new year brings new opportunities for progress, and he is looking forward to working with the new Congress.

"The Congress has changed. Our obligations to the country have not changed," he said. "Tomorrow, members of the 110th Congress will take their oath of office and I congratulate them. I welcome their arrival into town. I am looking forward to working with them."

President Bush says he is encouraged by what he says have been productive meetings with leaders from both parties. He says it is time to set aside politics and focus on the nation's future.

Democrats won control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in November elections that focused largely on voter discontent over the war in Iraq.

With the president preparing what he says will be a new way forward in Iraq, Democratic leaders plan to start their legislative agenda with domestic issues, including a higher minimum wage.

President Bush says the new Congress should make sure it spends the people's money wisely. He says legislators should reform the federal retirement program and subsidized medical care.

He wants Democrats to give him a line-item veto and to rein in spending on legislative earmarks that direct money to specific projects in members' districts, a tactic that has come to be known as pork-barrel politics.

"One important message we all should take from the elections is that people want to end the secretive process by which Washington insiders are able to get billions of dollars directed to projects, many of them pork-barrel projects that have never been reviewed or voted on by the Congress," he said.

The president says he will send Congress a five-year budget proposal that will balance the federal budget by 2012. He says his proposal will restrain spending, but will continue to fund the fight against terrorism.

Bush Has Not Decided on Troop Surge for Iraq
Law & Politics | 2006/12/20 17:55
President Bush says he has not yet made up his mind about whether to send more troops to Iraq.

At a year-end news conference from the White House complex Wednesday, the president said he is looking at all options, including ordering a short-term surge in U.S. forces. But he said he will only deploy more troops if there is a specific mission that can be accomplished with the addition.

The president acknowledged that 2006 was a difficult year for U.S. troops and for Iraqis. But he stressed that the enemy in Iraq needs to understand that it cannot intimidate American forces, and that his administration will not pull out of the country prematurely.

Mr. Bush also said he believes an increase in the size of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps is needed, and he has asked his new defense secretary, Robert Gates, to report to him on plans to enlarge the forces as quickly as possible.

On the economy, Mr. Bush said he supports a Democratic proposal to increase the U.S. minimum wage, but he said it should be coupled with tax and regulatory relief for small businesses. He said he will work with Democrats to keep the economy strong.

He said he would also seek common ground with Democrats to reform the country's immigration laws and its national pension system, Social Security.

The Democrats won control of both houses of Congress in the November general elections.

Bush Meets with Congressional Leaders on Iraq
Law & Politics | 2006/12/08 19:22

President Bush says it was a very constructive meeting with Republican leaders who now control Congress and Democratic leaders who will take charge in January.

"We talked about Iraq," he said. "We talked about the need for a new way forward in Iraq. And we talked about the need to work together on this important subject."

The president assured Democrats that the "White House door will be open" when they become the majority party in the next Congress, and said he hopes they can meet regularly.

"The reason you meet on a regular basis is so that the American people can know that we are working hard to find common ground. That is what they expect us to do. They expect us to work on big problems and solve them," he said.

Mr. Bush thanked outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert who lost their leadership positions in last month's electoral defeat for Republicans. With Democrats set to take charge of Congress in January, the president said he looks forward to working with incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Bipartisanship is central to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which said the United States deserves a debate on Iraq that prizes substance over rhetoric.

Among the study group's recommendations are talks with Iran and Syria and the withdrawal of most U.S. combat troops by early 2008.

But, following talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair Thursday, President Bush said there will be no direct talks with Iran until it gives up what he says is its nuclear weapons program. Iran has long denied that is seeking to make nuclear weapons. It says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Mr. Bush also said there would be no dialogue with Syria until it stops interfering in Lebanon.

As for troop levels, Mr. Bush said he needs to be "flexible and realistic" about U.S. withdrawals from Iraq.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president will also consider pending reports on Iraq from the Pentagon, State Department, and National Security Council with the goal of making an address to the nation on the issue sometime before Christmas.

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