The Bush doctrine: ‘My way or the highway’

041107bush.jpgWhen President Bush invited Democratic leaders for a sit-down on Iraq, it seemed to offer the opportunity for a breakthrough in their bitter differences over the war. For about five seconds. Then the White House spent the rest of Tuesday explaining what the meeting would not be.

It is not a chance to compromise, the administration insists. Bush isn’t budging from what kind of war-spending bill he can accept.

It is not a time for Bush to lecture lawmakers, the White House said, although he might reiterate why the Democrats’ proposals to set troop-withdrawal timelines are foolish and irresponsible.

And whatever you do, don’t call it a negotiation.

Bush read the Republicans’ loss of Congress last year as a message that voters want both parties to work together. But his move on Tuesday was the latest sign that his tactics remain the same: We’ll cooperate just fine as long as you see it my way.

In the latest instance, Bush called congressional leaders of both parties to the White House next week to talk about his war spending request.

“We can discuss the way forward on a bill that is a clean bill, a bill that funds our troops without artificial timetables for withdrawal and without handcuffing our generals on the ground,” he said.

In other words, exactly the bill he wants — stripped of the Democrats’ deadlines for pulling back.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, describing the president’s offer, hastened to declare: “I will point out to you, this is not a negotiation.”

A reporter said it sounded like an invitation for Democrats to come by and agree with Bush. “Well, hopefully so,” Perino said.

Not surprisingly, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected the terms set by Bush.

They said he has to recognize that times have changed since Republicans lost control of the House and Senate in the November elections.

“The president is now having to deal with a Congress,” Reid said. “He has never had to do that before. The president in the past, he has just done whatever he wanted. He had a big rubber stamp up here on Capitol Hill.”

Bush has cooperated with Democrats on some major issues, such as education. He has given ground to conservatives when he had a losing fight, such as an ill-fated attempt to promote then-White House counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

But he is better known for a style of my way or no way. It has held true whether Republicans or Democrats are running Congress.

He brushed aside bipartisan criticism of his government’s domestic surveillance of people suspected of links to al-Qaida without court order. He stuck with his Social Security push for private investment accounts, even when Democrats opposed it and bipartisan support was crucial. It went nowhere.

Bush also stood by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the face of the unpopular management of the Iraq war, long after Democrats in Congress called for him to be sacked.

These days, Bush is willing to let some of his aides be interviewed in a congressional investigation about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. But his offer — that the sessions will be in private, and without an oath or a transcript — is deemed nonnegotiable.

Congress won’t go for that, and Democrats subpoenaed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for more documents on Tuesday.

Above all else, Bush stands by his presidential prerogative on matters of war.

He spent weeks listening to outside advice before deciding in January to send more troops to Iraq, betting that a security clampdown will help the young democracy survive. Yet on the day he announced his policy, anti-war Democrats wondered aloud why he had even consulted them.

Down in the polls, an opposition Congress, less than two years left as president — those factors are not guiding Bush’s governing. He still considers himself the decider, and he still is the lone commander in chief.

The White House makes a daily point of reminding Democrats that they do not have the votes to override a Bush veto — and that’s what they will get if they send him a bill that includes timetables for getting troops home.

It is unclear whether Bush’s meeting with Democrats will take place.

Presidents typically set up these meetings after a change in party on Capitol Hill, or when they have a deal to discuss, said Paul Light, a New York University professor of public policy,

“They don’t occur when one hand is empty and the other hand is holding a veto pen,” Light said.

Light said Bush may be working to avoid a veto. Republicans would have to vote to sustain it, which could be spun by Democrats as another vote in favor of the war. Democrats could also gain from attending even a fruitless meeting with Bush, Light said. It gives them a chance to stand in the White House driveway afterward and declare that the president won’t give ground.

Then again, Democrats have plenty to lose too. With each day, they risk appearing like they do not support U.S. troops in a combat zone.

“Bush is the commander in chief. He can embarrass the Democrats by putting them on the spot, forcing them to question his leadership directly,” Light said. “It’s one thing to put a timetable in a bill. It’s quite another to talk to the commander in chief face-to-face and say you don’t like his leadership. Americans don’t like that.”



Ben Feller covers the White House for The Associated Press.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press


  1. beccy

    I think the come to Jesus moment is coming soon. Although they say they are not going to impeach there are sure alot of investagations going on. I don’t think king george wants to go there. The problem is that his daddy can’t clean up the mess of war crimes and pissing off the rest of the world.

  2. Patriot



    Not you, nor VP Cheney, nor any of you fellow ‘lunatic playmates’ will ever change that.

    The damage you have done to this country will take years to undo. But WE, THE PEOPLE, shall undo the mess. And with any luck, we’ll be doing that while you’re serving time for the rest of your life in prison.

    In the words of “The Donald”, YOU’RE FIRED!!


  3. Blake

    When the Republicans in the Senate finally decide that they have had enough of Dubya’s and Darth Cheney’s stupidity than we can finally impeach these idiots then send them packing down the Hershey highway were they belong. Sounds nice on paper but since most Republicans are usually guaranteed choice positions in either multinational corporations or somewhere in the military-industrial complex after they leave office they are highly corrupted and not easily swayed. In 2008, we need to insure that election fraud is kept to a minimum and send a message to all the neo-cons and the religious right that their reign is over thereby restoring some form of sanity back to our country.

  4. The South Point

    How about the highway to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary…?

    And don’t forget to take along Cheney as your road trip buddy.

    Take highway 77 to Indianapolis. Switch to highway 70 to get to Kansas. And then just follow the signs. And don’t forget to send a postcard or two. The gag ones with the jackalopes are always a hoot.

  5. SEAL

    Gordon, your post is confusing. No one, including Bush, ever declared war against Iraq. Officially it was a military “mission.” An invasion to prevent Saddam from using the WMD the triad of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld claimed, “They got ’em.” Only after the MISSION ACCOMPLISHED Top Gun episode and the ensuing failure to find any WMD did Bush, begin to call Iraq a “war.” That was necessary to justify continuing what was, in reality, an occupation.

    The understanding of congress was only to use military force to protect us from the threat of WMD. Unfortunately, the wording of the authority to use military force that congress gave Bush was open ended. He and his buddies spun it into a war against terrorists. The polls say 30% of the nation still believes that. But it has never been a war against anyone or anything. If you go back and look at the arguments and evidence that caused congress to authorize Bush to use military force it is obvious that the authorization was intended to end with “mission accomplished” and the failure to find any WMD. Beyond that, Bush has been acting without the blessing of congress.

    Bushco has taken advantage of of the way congress worded the authorization. The idiots that wrote it and voted for it should be dipped in some of the Iraqi oil and slow roasted over a nice fire. They are the ones actually responsible for this mess. And without at least half of the republicans still in congress, there are not enough votes to take the authorization away from Bush. The only way congress can stop Bush and end our occupation of Iraq is to cut off the funding. That is what they are (hopefully) in the process of doing, now.

  6. waldemar

    I would be willing to bet, that when Bush vetoes the Democrat’s bill, there will be a war of words, a lot of political posturing lots of rhetoric about not supporting the troops, helping the enemy by letting them know when the troops will be redeployed etc. etc.. And about this time “stinky” will cut the big one and start something with Iran. If you are keeping you eyes on the lies, you will notice that washington and it’s cheerleaders like CNN and MSM are airing more and more about Iran’s’ involvement in Iraq. Bush will most likely make the case that his war is being hampered by Iranian support and meddling in Iraq. Thus the justification for starting a campaign with Iran.
    This nonsense about Cheney quitting and Bush being impeached is just wishful thinking! When all else fails, start another diversion! A war with Iran is just what doctor Rove would prescribe to keep the Democrates spinning!

  7. Gordon West

    Congress has the power to declare war. Even though they spinelessly abrogated that power and let Bush start the Iraq invasion, it does not give the president the power to declare any other wars or to keep a bad war going. As the commander-in-chief, the president can command the military, but it does not follow that he can prevent Congress from ‘undeclaring’ war. If Congress does not want to continue to be involved in the ‘Mission Accomplished, No It Isn’t A Civil’ war, then they should not continue to fund it. If the commander-in-chief will not bring ‘his’ troops home after war is undeclared, then he will have failed in his responsibility as commander-in-chief. In summary, this is not Bush’s war, it is Congress’s war.

  8. SEAL

    All of his life Little Georgie has been able to walk away from his failures and ignore the consequences. Too often Daddy or his people would clean up the mess or buy him out of it with money and/or influence. But a president of the United States is hanging out there all alone with no one to pass it off to. He gets the rewards for his successes and takes the fall for his failures.

    Bush and the democrats are standing in the middle of the dusty street a high noon, now. The first to blink is dead. Bush has created this senario. Apparently his delusion is complete. He must believe that, if he can bring them face to face and fixes them with his steely stare, he has the power to intimidate them into leaving their guns in their holsters and backing them down.

    I’m holding my breath because who knows what the democrats will do? Anyone with any intelligence knows they can win and come out the winners in the public eye. But they have proved themselves to be such political idiots in the past. I hope, this one time, they do the right thing. If they do, its all over for Bush and Cheney. I would bet money that Cheney would resign very soon thereafter. That would solve a problem. We get a new VP and then impeach Bush.

  9. David Rosenberg

    Why is bush calling for a Sit Down with Congress? In his mind, he is convinced that Congress can be made to look unpatriotic by not supporting the troops. He can’t get away with that any longer. Congress is attempting to listen and do what the people of this country want them to do. bush has on more then one occasion said, no compromise. He will veto the up coming Bill which has the extra funds for the war and the Timetable for a start of Troop Withdrawal. bush wants a clean Bill for the funds and nothing else. He said in his only plain english, the Bill will be Vetoed. The people can then decide, who is not Supporting the Troops.

  10. Steven Horn

    At least Hitler served in the military – and didn’t hide drunk off his ass while others went out to die … that’s one thing that Adolf has over Georgie boy.

    Actually two things – Adolf had the decency to kill himself.

  11. Folks, Germany was pretty cowed too, much like the U.S.; they sat on their hands and whined like a bunch of little girls and waited to be liberated by an outside force. I really don’t want to think that this is the case with Dubya and his gaggle of S&B lackeys. Guess it’s time to call in the Australian army to liberate America as America’s military is out occupying Dubya’s conquests….huh?

  12. William L. Jonke

    Bush is going through hissyfits; probably going home to Mother and getting her reassurance, but she’s already gone.

    Poor poor pitiful bush

  13. Janet

    By ruling like a dictator, instead of governing as a servant of the people, George W. Bush is refusing to uphold his oath of office. In addition he has committed several impeachable offenses. Perhaps he is mentally ill and needs to be committed to a treatment facility. Perhaps he is really the dreaded Anti-Christ, masquerading as a Christian – ya know like wolf in sheep’s clothing? Everyday it is another travesty of justice committed by this man. He needs to go – preferably in handcuffs or straitjacket and take Cheney, Rove and Gonzoles with him.

    The Republicans in Congress need to get some cahones and stand up with the Democrats in unity against this insipid idiot in the White House. It is time to override his vetoes and it is time to impeach. It is time. It is time.

  14. Sonourous Pest

    To tell the S.O.B., Barbra’s little boy George, that he is a lakey, a bed pan, a festering sore on the American landscape, a thief, and a phyco that will never recover, an idiotand most of all a LIAR. Now, most of America already knows this. Barbra’s little boy George, however does not, how come you can’t realize this and go see a broadway play.