White House leaders pledge new openness on Iraq

Responding to a humbling election, White House aides said Sunday that President George W. Bush would welcome new ideas about the unpopular war in Iraq, even from Democrats he had branded as soft on terrorism. As Bush planned to meet Monday with a key advisory group on the war, his advisers adopted a new tone, days after a dissatisfied public handed the White House a divided government. "Full speed ahead" in Iraq, as Vice President Dick Cheney put it in the final days of the campaign, was replaced by repeated calls for a "fresh perspective" and an acknowledgment that "nobody can be happy" with the situation in Iraq. "We clearly need a fresh approach," said Josh Bolten, Bush's chief of staff, making the rounds of morning talk shows. Democrats, meanwhile, showed they were not all in accord on how to proceed in Iraq. Although party leaders back a multifaceted approach to stabilizing the country, lawmakers have not unified on when to bring troops home without risking more chaos in Iraq. Sen. Carl Levin, the incoming Democratic chairman of the Armed Services Committee, urged that U.S. troops begin coming home in phases within four months to six months. He and Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, the incoming chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, predicted many Republicans would support such a resolution now that the election is over. "We have to tell Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over," Levin said.