WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday said the war in Iraq is lost militarily and "can only be won diplomatically, politically and economically" after more than four years of fighting.
"Now I believe, myself, that the secretary of state, the secretary of defense and you have to make your own decision as to what the president knows: that this war is lost, that the surge is not accomplishing anything," Reid, D-Nev., told reporters.
Repeating remarks he made to President Bush during a meeting of congressional leaders at the White House, Reid said the president is hearing only from people who are backing up his view of the war.
"I know I was the odd guy out yesterday at the White House, but I at least told him what he needs to hear. … I told George Bush what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear, I did that and my conscience is great," said Reid, who was one of several lawmakers who met with the president on Wednesday at the White House. Reid added that more people need to tell Bush the same.
Reid's prognosis came after Defense Secretary Robert Gates made a surprise visit to Iraq and repeated remarks of a day earlier in which he said that Iraqi officials have to move faster in taking control of their country, including through political means. He added that America's military commitment is not open-ended.
But speaking in Camp Fallujah, Gates said progress in al-Anbar province is "really a good news story."
"It's a place where the Iraqis have decided to take control of their future. The Sheiks have played a key role in making good things happen out here, along with the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army and with our help. I received a briefing not just about military operations, but about construction projects, rule of law initiatives and a variety of local political developments that are encouraging," Gates said.
Meanwhile, Bush offered his own perspective on the global War On Terror to a friendly audience at Tippecanoe High School in Tipp City, Ohio. House Minority Leader John Boehner traveled with the president to the congressman's district, which voted for Bush by a 2-1 ratio in the 2004 election.
At one point, a man in the audience politely asked Bush how he deals with low poll numbers. Bush responded by saying that polls "go poof at times." He then said that he is sticking to his principles regardless of the poll data.
White House spokesman Dana Perino said tickets for the event were distributed by the Chamber of Commerce, except for a handful that went to Rep. Boehner's office, and since the town hall style of the event wasn't decided until Thursday morning, none of the questions had been prescreened.
In the 90-minute conversation, Bush repeated that he will veto an emergency spending bill that includes a timetable for withdrawal.
The House of Representatives was slated Thursday to name its negotiators on the war funding bill with the intent of producing a House-Senate compromise next week. In Washington, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said a supplemental bill with a timetable allows for a process where the United States is "willing to accept failure" and "set a deadline for defeat."
On the Senate side of Capitol Hill, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., said he didn't want to "dignify with a response" the GOP's new characterization of the Democratic position on troop withdrawal as "surrender."
"Surrender to who? Who are we surrendering to? This is an unconventional war and has to be dealt with in unconventional ways. This is an administration that has never understood the nature of the threat or the way to respond to it," Kennedy said.
While the president has pledged a veto, Democrats seem intent to send the supplemental bill to the president with the deadline for withdrawal. Doing so would further delay the funding measure, a situation that Pentagon officials says slows military readiness, delays equipment repairs and limits travel.
Army spokesman Col. William Wiggins told FOX News on Thursday that the military has "enough money to slide until the first of June" after the Navy and Air Force sent $1.6 billion to Army accounts.
While lawmakers were outspoken in press briefings, several officials described Wednesday's White House meeting as polite for the most part, but pointed during Reid's comments that he spoke with generals who likened Iraq to Vietnam and described it as a war in which the president refused to change course despite knowing victory was impossible.
Bush bristled at the comparison, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. One quoted him as saying, "I reject" the comparison.
FOX News' Molly Hooper and The Associated Press contributed to this report.