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GOP lawmakers bluntly tell Bush: Fix Iraq soon

Story Highlights

• Progress must be shown by September, lawmakers tell Bush
• Source says Bush told Iraq could hurt GOP lawmakers' election prospects
• Bush urged to let general be key spokesman on Iraq, source says
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Eleven Republican lawmakers expressed their frustrations to President Bush this week about the war in Iraq and its political implications, Illinois Republican Rep. Ray LaHood said Thursday.

LaHood said the delegation of lawmakers met with Bush Tuesday and told him "in the most unvarnished way that they possibly could that things have got to change" in Iraq.

Top Republicans have said an expected September review by Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, may decide the future of the war.

Bush must be able to show by September that the push to pacify Baghdad and its surrounding provinces is working, LaHood said.

"The American people are war-fatigued. The American people want to know there's a way out," LaHood said.

"We will hang with them until September, but we need an honest assessment in September," he said of his fellow congressmen. "People's patience is running very, very thin."

One source who attended the meeting said that Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, told Bush that without positive results soon in Iraq, his district will be prepared for defeat.

The message from the lawmakers was "we're all with you now, but we have concerns about where we will be next year," a House GOP leadership aide said.

A GOP House aide told CNN that the meeting was a "proactive step" by the White House to meet with lawmakers who had reservations about Bush's troop increase in Iraq to make sure they would not support a new Democratic proposal that would pay for the Iraq war in stages.

The aide predicted that there will be "no defections" when the proposal comes up for a vote today.

Bush said Wednesday that he would veto the bill.

Another source who attended the White House meeting said that one of the lawmakers also told Bush that Petraeus should be the one to provide updates about progress in Iraq because the administration's credibility is diminished.

White House spokesman Tony Snow, who attended the meeting, said "everybody was completely candid" in telling Bush about deep frustration in the Republican Party about the situation in Iraq.

LaHood said he thought Bush "appreciated the fact that people were willing to open up and give it to him."

Other administration officials at the meeting included Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the president's chief political adviser, Karl Rove.

Kirk led the delegation, along with Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. Among others in the group were Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan, Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania, Todd Platt of Pennsylvania, Jim Walsh of New York and Wayne Gilchrist of Maryland.

Bush last week vetoed a $124 billion war spending bill because of its call for U.S. combat troops to leave Iraq by March 2008, calling that setting a "date for failure." A CNN poll out Tuesday found a majority of Americans disapprove of his veto, and 65 percent expressed opposition to the war.

If the September report shows things haven't improved in Iraq, LaHood said, "I think public opinion probably turns even worse than it is."

Top Bush allies in Congress have been telling the White House for months that the president has lost credibility with the American people on the war. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in January that Bush needed to let Petraeus be the administration's spokesman on Iraq because Bush and his team are being tuned out.

CNN's Ed Henry, Dana Bash and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

"Things have got to change" in Iraq, Illinois Rep. Ray LaHood said GOP lawmakers told President Bush.


• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide


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