"The president wants them to tell him how they can get a ???clean' bill,'" says a Bush adviser, referring to Bush's call for legislation that includes supplemental funding for the Iraq war without a timetable for withdrawal and without extraneous porkbarrel projects. "They can't agree among themselves,' the aide says. "We hope the Democrats come to a consensus."
Bush wants the House and Senate to confer immediately and agree on a funding bill they can send to the White Hosue for his consideration. If it contains the timetable for withdrawal, he says he will veto it and force Congress to start all over again. Democrats sense a trap.
Democratic insiders say they suspect Bush will let the opposition leaders present their differing views on the Iraq war in the Wednesday encounter, and then, afterward, he will use his bully pulpit to portray the Democrats as hopelessly divided and heading down the path toward surrender, while he has a plan for victory.
But at this point, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi believe they have little choice but to participate. To stiff the commander in chief on the meeting would make them look spiteful and stubborn -- an image they of course want toavoid.
By Kenneth T. Walsh