Bolton may go in election wake

A day after he parted company with outspoken Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld President George W Bush has thrown down a new challenge to the soon-to-be Democrat-dominated Congress by resubmitting Bolton’s nomination.

The Democrats and a rebel Republican have signalled they will again oppose the hawkish ambassador’s nomination.

President Bush originally named Mr Bolton last year but was forced to use a device known as a recess appointment to bypass Senate objections.

Bush ‘open to ideas’ on Iraq

It comes as President Bush courted Democratic leaders after their sweep in congressional elections and says he’s open to suggestions on how to win the war in Iraq.

Exposed by the Republican collapse, President Bush adopted a conciliatory tone towards rivals.

Democrats, meanwhile, celebrated adding control of the Senate to their seizure of the House of Representatives in Tuesday’s polls, after clinching victory in a cliff-hanger race in the decisive state of Virginia.

Mr Bush welcomed Nancy Pelosi, the 66-year-old Democrat set to become the first woman speaker of the House, for lunch, a day after making the first move in his new political gambit by dispensing with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

“I’m open to any idea or suggestion that will help us achieve our goals of defeating the terrorists and ensuring that Iraq’s democratic government succeeds,” Mr Bush said.

“The American people expect us to rise above partisan differences, and my administration will do its part.”

As Mr Bush set out to salvage the last two years of his presidency, Virginia Republican Senator George Allen conceded defeat to Democrat James Webb, giving the Democratic Party a majority in both houses of the US congress for the first time in 12 years.

Eyes were already turning to a bipartisan commission probing new approaches to the occupation of Iraq, after President Bush admitted that the election rout was a message from voters fed up with a lack of progress in Iraq.

The group, due to report within months, is co-led by former secretary of state James Baker, and seen by many observers as a chance for both parties to coalesce around a common strategy on Iraq.

But White House spokesman Tony Snow said Mr Bush did not see the group as a way out of Iraq.

“To the extent that the Iraq Study Group has fresh ideas and analysis that we think is going to be interesting and helpful, we’re going to be grateful for
it,” Mr Snow said.

“But the idea that somebody says, ‘Ah-ha, here’s the document, let us follow.’ No, it doesn’t work that way.”

The approach towards Iraq of Mr Bush’s nominee to succeed Mr Rumsfeld, Robert Gates, a former CIA chief seen as more moderate than his combative predecessor, is also being closely watched.

Ms Pelosi is on record as favouring a phased withdrawal of US troops, and other Democrats have backed a quick exit or a partition of Iraq.

She is reviled by many Bush backers as an “extreme” liberal who mocked the president as “incompetent,” but Mr Bush said he was looking forward to the lunch, and would meet Democratic Senate leaders on Friday.

The Senate victory, which gave Democrats control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in 12 years, means Democrats will run powerful panels such as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, be able to compel testimony from officials and block confirmation of cabinet officials or any new Supreme Court nominees.