White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley remember conferring with President Bush during the darkest days of the Iraq war, in 2005 and 2006, when violence was out of control. In daily 7 a.m. meetings in the Oval Office, Bush reviewed "blue sheets" detailing incidents involving U.S. soldiers; he would circle the casualty figures and press his top aides for details about the deaths.
"It was pretty grim news," Hadley recalled last week. For him, however, the sessions underscored the president's focus. "This notion that somehow the president didn't know what was going on, information was withheld from him in some way, he didn't have a picture of what was going on: He got that picture" -- Hadley smacked his palms together for emphasis -- "at 7 o'clock every morning."