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<nettime> Bush to Unnamed Officials: Shut Up or Else
Soenke Zehle on Wed, 22 Oct 2003 16:30:31 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Bush to Unnamed Officials: Shut Up or Else

This is funny, no? It's the media, stupid. sz

Galloway, Joseph L., and James Kuhnhenn. "Bush orders officials to stop the
leaks." Philadelphia Inquirer (16 Oct 2003).

Bush orders officials to stop the leaks. He warned of action if anonymous
sources were quoted, a senior aide said. Visiting senators also heard a
stern line.

By Joseph L. Galloway and James Kuhnhenn
Inquirer Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Concerned about the appearance of disarray and feuding within
his administration as well as growing resistance to his policies in Iraq,
President Bush - living up to his recent declaration that he is in charge -
told his top officials to "stop the leaks" to the media, or else.

News of Bush's order leaked almost immediately.

Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he "didn't want to see any stories"
quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if
he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official
who asked that his name not be used.

An escalating turf war involving Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld,
national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of State Colin L.
Powell has generated an unusually bountiful crop of leaks in recent months,
and one result is a criminal investigation of anonymous officials in the
White House who are alleged to have leaked the name of a CIA covert officer.

The infighting, backstabbing and maneuvering on such major foreign-policy
issues as North Korea, Syria, Iran and postwar Iraq have escalated to a
level that veterans of government say they have not seen in years. At one
point, the senior official said, Bush himself asked how bad it was.

"This isn't as bad as [George] Shultz vs. [Caspar] Weinberger, is it?" he
asked, referring to a legendary Reagan administration rivalry between
secretaries of state and defense. One top official reportedly nodded and
said it was "way worse."

The infighting has strained Bush's patience.

On Monday, reacting to reports of internal conflict among his top advisers,
the President told one regional broadcaster: "The person who's in charge is

Bush's attempt to assert himself extends beyond the executive branch. Late
Tuesday, in a brief, brusque arm-twisting session with nine senators, the
President made it clear that he was not there to answer questions or debate
the merits of his $87 billion Iraq and Afghanistan aid package. He demanded
that the aid to Iraq be in the form of grants, not loans, as some of the
senators have urged.

Present at the session in the Roosevelt Room of the White House were
Republicans Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania; Olympia J. Snowe and Susan
Collins, both of Maine; Saxby Chambliss of Georgia; Sam Brownback of Kansas;
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; and John McCain of Arizona. Democrats
Maria Cantwell of Washington and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana also

At one point, as he discussed the question of providing some of the money as
a loan, Bush slammed his hand down on the table and said: "This is bad

When Collins tried to ask a question, the President replied: "I'm not here
to debate it."

One participant told The Inquirer that some of the senators, particularly
those who have never been on the opposing side of an issue with Bush, were
"surprised by his directness." It was clear he was not there to engage in
any give-and-take, the participant said.

Nevertheless, Bush failed to sway any of the pro-loan Republicans.

That failure was in sharp contrast to the President's lobbying of House
members last week. Zach Wamp, a Tennessee Republican who had pushed a loan
plan, backed away after meeting with Bush. "If his eyes had been lasers,
mine would have burned out," Wamp said then.

"What's most revealing is the extent of frustration taking hold," said
historian Robert Dallek of Boston University, a biographer of Presidents
Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy. "It's really reminiscent of Johnson
and Vietnam. Members of the Senate... and the media were giving him grief.
It sounds like Bush is falling into that pattern. He's blaming the media,
much like Johnson did."

Yesterday, Bush sent Vice President Cheney and Powell to the Capitol to
attend a Republican senatorial lunch, but they made no apparent converts.
After the lunch, a dozen GOP senators were still discussing how the
reconstruction money could be turned into a loan or partial loan.

Snowe said of Powell and Cheney: "They're very strong in their beliefs. And
the President has come out strongly. Obviously we have a fundamental
difference on the issue."

Brownback said: "I think we ought to have the Iraqis have some skin in the
game with some loans. I don't know if they're going to be able to repay it.
But if it's all a grant, we know it won't get repaid."

Contact reporter Joseph Galloway at 202-383-6010 or
jgalloway {AT} krwashington.com.

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