WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops into Iraq will not work in the long run, but the "surge" might nonetheless have a short-term positive effect, former President Bill Clinton says.
That's the report from a source who was among a standing-room-only crowd of Democratic members of the House of Representatives and their families who attended a speech by the 42nd president Thursday night.
Clinton spoke at the Democrats' annual issues retreat in Williamsburg, Va. His remarks were closed to the press, but some participants described the proceedings to FOX News.
"Damn. I forget just how good Clinton is," said a staffer who listened to Clinton answer questions.
Another attendee said Clinton spent several hours addressing issues from energy policy, to AIDS in Africa and the way forward in Iraq.
The man in charge of organizing the retreat, Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel, whom many in the party credit with returning Democrats to power in the House, recruited Clinton to rev up his fellow Democrats on the first day of the conference, entitled "Governing for a New Direction."
If all goes as planned, members will end the conference as they began, with a high-ranking speaker: Bush, who is scheduled to speak to and answer questions from House Democrats on Saturday morning.
On Friday, day two of the retreat, members and their spouses will participate in a number of seminars led by political big-wigs, such as Democratic Govs. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Eliot Spitzer of New York, who were scheduled to lead the discussion on "A winning national message — coalitions for a winning majority."
Other seminars include, "faith and politics," "organizing for the future: labor briefing," "emerging coalitions" and "innovative technologies."
Over lunch, Gen. James Hoar, former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, was to talk about the war in Iraq and the president’s strategy to flood the country with 21,500 additional troops. Hoar last month told a Senate panel that Bush’s plan is "too little too late."
Among other things, Hoar planned to discuss what the Democratic-controlled Congress can do to influence the President’s strategy for success.
If members have too much of these issues discussions, they can take advantage of the one-on-one media training with Nancy Mathis, a former Washington TV news anchor, and Anita Dunn, political strategist and communications adviser, who "will be available by appointment throughout the conference."
Early Thursday morning, members and their families stopped by a House office building to register for the conference before gathering on a charter train headed for the Kingsmill Resort in historic Williamsburg. Due to security reasons, the resort was closed to the public and press.
Caucus press secretary Nick Papas said close to 200 members registered for the trip; there are 232 Democratic members in the House.
One congressman’s wife brought nine pieces of luggage — including a playpen for her her dog, a miniature white Maltese. According to a baggage handler, this was the second year in a row that she traveled with just shy of 10 bags.