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Wallace: Bush gets more advice on Iraq

CNN Correspondent Kelly Wallace
CNN Correspondent Kelly Wallace  

CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- President Bush has been getting more and more advice -- much of it unsolicited -- on the wisdom and even the legality of attacking Iraq. A senior administration official told CNN Monday that White House attorneys have concluded that Bush does not need congressional approval to launch an attack. CNN's Kelly Wallace discussed the debate Monday at the president's ranch with Kyra Phillips.

WALLACE: Yes, a senior official [confirmed] to us that the president's lawyers have told him that legally he does not need to go to Congress to get its approval for any attack on Iraq. This official said there were a several reasons, No. 1 [being that] the Constitution gives the president authority as commander in chief to make military decisions.

Also the president's lawyers looked at the 1991 Persian Gulf Resolution, authorizing the use of force against Iraq, and the resolution passed by Congress in September, giving the president the authority to use whatever means necessary in this war on terror.

But, here is the key point. This official stressed that legal issues alone won't disguise it, that the president will consider a number of other factors, historical factors, policy considerations and political considerations before deciding, No. 1, if he should go to Congress, and No. 2, of course, if he will pursue any military campaign against Iraq.

CNN: You mentioned the Persian Gulf War. Let's go back to the Persian Gulf War. His father didn't need congressional approval to launch the attack, right?

WALLACE: Officials are saying that the [first President Bush] was told just what this president is being told -- that he did not need legal authority to pursue a military campaign against Iraq. But, he [went] to Congress anyway. [The first President Bush] went to Congress, you'll recall in 1991, to get congressional support for that military campaign.

So if you look at that example, that president did not need the legal authority, but for political and other reasons he decided to get it.

CNN: Former Secretary of State James Baker also says the president shouldn't go at this alone. Have White House officials responded to what Mr. Baker has said?

WALLACE: Yes, and the advice keeps on coming in, as you said. They are saying they welcome this advice. They are saying this is part of the constructive debate about what to do to deal with Saddam Hussein.

The former secretary of state, though, is saying something important. He does believe that military force will be needed to enact some regime change, but he really believes this administration should try to cobble together a coalition, just as he and [the first President Bush] did during the Persian Gulf War. He is also suggesting that the administration may want to go to the United Nations and the Security Council to get some resolution for an inspections regime, and the authority to use whatever force necessary to enforce that regime.

White House officials not really commenting on that. They are saying they welcome all of the advice they are getting, but they keep saying the president has not made any decision just yet.




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