By letting Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld go, the president signaled a new direction in both Iraq and other areas is likely before long. Replacing Rumsfeld with former CIA Director Bob Gates, a member of the Iraq Study Group, indicates that a new team could soon have more influence over the thinking at the White House.
The Iraq Study Group is a bipartisan committee led by Republican former secretary of state James A. Baker III and Democratic former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (Ind.), who was a vice chairman of the panel that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The Iraq Study Group was the brainchild of Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.). Wolf started to talk to people about a set of "new eyes" to study the situation in Iraq and make recommendations following his third trip to Iraq in September 2005.
Wolf said, "We wanted a bipartisan group, people senior enough that they weren't looking to get placed in a law firm or good job. The test was: Do you love your country?"
The members of the group include Lawrence Eagleburger (secretary of state under the first President Bush), Vernon E. Jordan Jr. (former adviser to President Bill Clinton),
Edwin Meese III (attorney general under President Ronald Reagan), Sandra Day O'Connor (former Supreme Court justice), Leon E. Panetta (chief of staff under Clinton and Democratic former representative from California), William J. Perry (secretary of defense under Clinton), Charles S. Robb (Democratic former senator from Virginia) and
Alan K. Simpson (Republican former senator from Wyoming).
Because the congress has been unable or unwilling to chart a new course for Iraq, Rep. Wolf thought an outside team of "solons" might be able to come to conclusions, make recommendations, and persuade the president to go in a new direction.
There is something else at play here too. By removing Mr. Rumsfeld and replacing him with Mr. Gates, the president might be signaling that he is starting to listen more to men close to his father. This group would include "Bush 41" National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft (he was Condoleezza Rice's boss at the time), Colin Powell (who some say was treated badly by George W. Bush who dismissed him as his secretary of state), Richard Armitage (Powell's deputy at state), James A. Baker III, and, perhaps, President "Bush 41" himself.
If allowed to get the president's ear often enough over the holiday season, one might expect this group to urge a diminishing reliance upon the overpowering influence of Vice president Dick Cheney.