|December 9, 2005|
WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has scheduled a trek to Capitol Hill to meet with allies who support the administration's stand on the war in Iraq.
Rumsfeld was to meet with a handful of lawmakers at the office of Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, Thursday morning amid efforts by the administration to blunt criticism of the war and calls by Democrats for troop withdrawal.
Granger's office said she was asked to hold the meeting - expected to last about 15 minutes - because Rumsfeld wanted to meet with key leaders in the war on terror. Rumsfeld plans one other meeting with a group of House members and was scheduled to meet with Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., before the Granger meeting.
"He's coming to give a report on the progress we're making," said Caitlin Carroll, Granger's spokeswoman.
Other House members invited to the meeting are Reps. Sam Johnson, a Texas Republican who was a prisoner of war for seven years in Vietnam; Mac Thornberry, another Texas Republican who serves on the Armed Services and Select Intelligence committees; Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Jim Marshall, D-Ga.; and Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan.
Granger is a member of the House Appropriations Committee defense subcommittee. She has been to Iraq twice, including once to help train Iraqi women to run for political office. She also is chairwoman of the Iraq Women's Caucus.
The meeting follows two recent speeches by President Bush to respond to criticism and questions about the U.S. war in Iraq. Bush's approval ratings are at the lowest in his presidency, and he and administration officials are trying to boost public support for the war before the Dec. 15 vote in Iraq to pick a permanent government.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Rumsfeld meets regularly with members. Some members he'll meet with have recently returned from trips to Iraq, while others don't often get the chance to meet with him, he said.
Bush defended his war policy Wednesday and spoke of economic progress in Iraq.
Rumsfeld said Tuesday the Iraqi elections will spawn increased violence, while Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday rejected calls for a speedy withdrawal of troops.
Blackburn said she will speak against troops leaving Iraq in the meeting with Rumsfeld.
"We're in this war to win, but too many in Washington are trying to claim otherwise. The assertion that there's no progress and comparisons to Vietnam are based less on historical fact than political maneuvering," Blackburn said.
Support for the war has waned as the U.S. death toll in Iraq surpassed 2,000 and after longtime hawk Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., announced that U.S. troops should be pulled out of Iraq.