WASHINGTON – President Bush and the first lady left the White House Friday for Camp David, where the president will convene his war Cabinet Saturday.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and perhaps Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are likely to be with the president, while other members, like Gen. Tommy Franks, the man directing the battle from the Persian Gulf, will conference in on a secure line.
Earlier in the day, Bush met with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders. He thanked the House for passing a budget resolution Thursday night and urged lawmakers to stay focused on the nation's domestic agenda.
The House passed by a narrow margin the White House's 2004 budget blueprint, including the president's $726 billion tax-cut plan. The blueprint is not the final word on the budget, but merely defines parameters under which appropriators must determine where to put money.
Before the meeting, Bush took a photo with the leaders and thanked them for passing resolutions in the House and Senate in support of the president, the troops and their families.
He said the resolutions say "loud and clear, our country supports the men and women in uniform."
Bush arrived at work at his usual 7 a.m. time, where the first order of business was to listen to updates on the war from Rice and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. At that time, he was told about the five fatalities suffered overnight by U.S. service personnel. The president, said one official, expressed his "sympathies and condolences to the families of those involved."
"This is a reminder to the American people that this is war," an official said before a sixth Marine was killed on the ground in Iraq. That individual, as yet unnamed, was killed around 8 a.m. EST.
Four other U.S. Marines and eight British Royal Marines were killed when their helicopter went down in Kuwait early Friday morning while returning from a mission.
The cause of the crash of the CH-46 Sea Knight was being investigated, but no hostile fire was reported in the area.
While at the White House, congressional members also got a briefing from Rumsfeld, which the president summed up for the pool of reporters.
"We're making progress. We will stay on task until we've achieved our objective, which is to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, and free the Iraqi people so they can live in a society that is hopeful and democratic and at peace in its neighborhood," Bush said.
Administration officials aren't shedding much light on whether Saddam Hussein was killed or wounded in Wednesday night's decapitation attempt.
The CIA concluded that Saddam did in fact appear on the videotaped address to the Iraqi people Thursday, but said the tape could have been made days ago, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer reported.
Saddam's former mistress said it was his double on the tape, but one intelligence source said her credibility is lacking.
Despite the compelling live pictures of the "Shock and Awe" campaign he ordered, Fleischer told a skeptical press corps that the president was not watching the war unfold on television, but may have flipped on the tube while he was alone in the Oval Office.
"I don't know that the president needed to watch TV to understand what it means to authorize military force and to know that mission is begun and the mission is under way," Fleischer said.
Asked about the president's level of involvement in the military effort, Fleischer said Bush signed the war plan, but it's up to the commanders to determine the timing of the attacks. The president, however, continues to supervise, but believes the best way to win is to let the experts run the war.
Officials said they expect the president to be able to conduct operations from Camp David this weekend as well as if he were in the White House Situation Room. "He can get his work done just as easily" there because of the communications capabilities available, one official said.
No briefings from Camp David or the White House were expected over the weekend. Any such events will occur from the Persian Gulf, an administration official said.
Fox News' Wendell Goler and James Rosen contributed to this report.