WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton might be listening to advice from the Oval Office.
President Bush has been sending out words of wisdom through back-channel aides and in the press to the presidential candidates in an attempt to position whoever listens in the best way to take over the reins on the Iraq war, reports The (Washington, D.C.) Examiner.
White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten told the paper that Bush "has been urging candidates: 'Don’t get yourself too locked in where you stand right now. If you end up sitting where I sit, things could change dramatically.’ "
The point, Bolten says, is so that "even a Democratic president would be in a position to sustain a legitimate presence there" in Iraq.
The interview was given for book appearing on shelves this week, "The Evangelical President," by Bill Sammon, a reporter for The Examiner and a FOX News contributor.
It would seem that Clinton may have heeded that advice, and at least holds a similar view on Iraq: It's too soon to say precisely what she would do in office because there is too much time between then and now.
Asked Sunday on ABC's "This Week" if she would pledge to bring troops home from Iraq, by the end of her first term in office, Clinton sidestepped.
"You know, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals and make pledges, because I don't know what I'm going to inherit. ... I don't know and neither do any of us know what will be the situation in the region," Clinton said.
"How much more aggressive will Iran have become? What will be happening in the Middle East? How much more of an influence will the chaos in Iraq have in terms of what's going on in the greater region? Will we have pushed Al Qaeda in Iraq out of their strongholds with our new partnership with some of the tribal sheikhs or will they have regrouped and retrenched? I don't know and I think it's not appropriate to be speculating."
In an interview for the book, Bush said he has been pushing controversial antiterror programs such as keeping enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, because he believes the next president will need the programs.
“Look, I’d like to make as many hard decisions as I can make, and do a lot of the heavy lifting prior to whoever my successor is,” Bush said. “And then that person is going to have to come and look at the same data I’ve been looking at, and come to their own conclusion.”
Bush, saying that while he expects Democrats to criticize him on the campaign trail, any candidate will have to make a transition once he or she assumes office.
“It’s different being a candidate and being the president,” Bush said. “No matter who the president is, no matter what party, when they sit here in the Oval Office and seriously consider the effect of a vacuum being created in the Middle East, particularly one trying to be created by Al Qaeda, they will then begin to understand the need to continue to support the young democracy.”
In a report published Monday, based on the book, 'The Evangelical President,' the newspaper said Bush expects Clinton to be the Democrats' nominee for the presidency, but ultimately thinks a Republican candidate will prevail.
“She's got a national presence and this is becoming a national primary,” Bush said. “And therefore the person with the national presence, who has got the ability to raise enough money to sustain an effort in a multiplicity of sites, has got a good chance to be nominated."