Bush's Golden Vision

President Sees Election Cash in Rebuilding Iraq

When Allbaugh resigned to take on his duties at New Bridge, it was widely seen as a cash-out. But there is little reason to believe he would walk out on his friend and boss on the verge of a presidential election. As a lobbyist, he may not be leaving Bush's circle so much as becoming a different kind of operative, able to bind corporate and lobbying dollars to White House priorities.

On October 5, much to Secretary Rumsfeld's surprise, Iraq officially became a White House operation. Placed under the stewardship of the National Security Council, Iraq is now a Condi Rice responsibility, which puts it about halfway between Rumsfeld and Karl Rove. According to the next day's New York Times, "Ms. Rice called it 'a recognition by everyone that we are in a different phase now' that Congress is considering Mr. Bush's . . . [supplemental] request."

Why congressional deliberations would usher in a different phase was left unstated, but the relation between Congress and the national security advisor became clear four days later. Bill Young, chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, was concerned that Rice, who is appointed by the president and not confirmed by Congress, cannot be called before Congress, nor compelled to turn over information—on, say, how contracts get awarded. As such, he drafted an amendment precluding her stewardship over the spending. It passed unanimously.

Rice, meanwhile, had already appointed a four-person steering committee, called the Iraq Stabilization Group. Their brief was to coordinate the various government agencies and keep things moving in Baghdad. Why? Because as the campaign season progresses, Iraq's predicament will become an ever more sensitive issue. "Forget all the talk about Arab democracy," Professor Ferguson said. "The election these guys are focused on is right here at home."

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