President Works Through Christmas

Dec. 24, 2006 — -- President Bush left the White House on Friday and will not return until New Year's Day, but that 11-day break is not all rest and relaxation. Much of it will be spent trying to figure out a new strategy for success in Iraq.

At Camp David this weekend, President Bush convened his new war council.

The White House released a photo of the president conferring with his new secretary of defense, Robert Gates, but disclosed nothing about the meeting.

Gates just returned from a whirlwind three-day trip to Iraq where he got an earful about the troop surge the president is contemplating.

Soldiers told Gates they need more boots on the ground. Iraqi leaders said they would not object to additional forces, and even top military commanders who had originally opposed an escalation now agree it is necessary.

These things would seem to clear the way for a surge of up to 30,000 troops, but the White House says the president is still wrestling with the idea.

However, he will take a break from business to celebrate the season with the first family.

Laura Bush and the twins, the president's parents, mother-in-law and two of his four siblings have all gathered at the presidential retreat in Maryland, where they will enjoy a big lunch Christmas Day.

The menu this year is very traditional -- turkey with giblet gravy, cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole and green beans. For dessert, the family will have ambrosia fruit salad and pies made of pumpkin and pecans.

After all that, the president likely will also find time for some mountain biking.

The day after Christmas, the president will head to his ranch in Crawford, Texas. There he will likely do some more biking, clear some brush and read for pleasure. But work takes center stage again on Thursday when he summons his national security team to the ranch for another meeting about the way forward in Iraq.

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