White House Reached Out to Republicans Before Speech

Posted December 2, 2009 at 1:34pm

Around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, less than two hours before President Barack Obama’s West Point address, House and Senate Republican staffers began receiving a series of e-mails from an unusual sender: the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. Several House and Senate GOP aides confirmed that the e-mails, which dealt with the administration’s plan for Afghanistan that Obama was about to announce, were the first they had ever received from the Obama’s legislative affairs office.And while the e-mails contained relatively mainstream information about the administration’s new plan for the 8-year-old war, several GOP aides immediately saw the communication as an acknowledgment from the White House that Republican votes for that strategy would be needed.“This initial outreach highlights the president’s need for Republican support to overcome the vocal discontent— of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “and the liberal ranks of the Democrat caucus,— one House GOP aide said. “The president did himself no favors by attempting to garner such support at the eleventh hour after having already defined an exit strategy before troops and resources are even in the field.—The e-mails sent to Republicans included embargoed copies of Obama’s speech at the West Point military academy, copies of testimony Obama officials were expected to deliver to the House and Senate Armed Services committees, comments from Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and Gen. Stanley McChrystal on Obama’s Afghanistan strategy announcement, and a fact sheet titled, “The Way Forward in Pakistan and Afghanistan.— A White House spokeswoman did not immediately return requests for comment. Many House and Senate Republicans offered tepid support for Obama’s decision to send 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan following the president’s prime-time address, saying they have concerns about several components of the president’s approach.During a closed-door meeting of the House Republican Conference on Wednesday morning, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said “success is critical— in Afghanistan and advised Members to “keep their powder dry— on Obama’s strategy until top administration officials and generals had testified in front of the Armed Services committees, according to sources in the room. At a press conference following the closed-door meeting, Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) said Republicans supported Obama’s decision to send more troops into Afghanistan but were concerned about imposing a timeline for withdrawal from the region — which was developing into the default GOP reaction as the day wore on.“It never makes sense to tell the enemy when your commitment to fight will run out,— he said.