Bush And Cheney Chide Democrats On Iraq Deadline

Bush And Cheney Chide Democrats On Iraq Deadline
April 25th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Bush And Cheney Chide Democrats On Iraq Deadline

Bush And Cheney Chide Democrats On Iraq Deadline
New York Times
April 25, 2007
Pg. 1

By Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleny
WASHINGTON, April 24 — President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney aggressively challenged the motives of Congressional Democrats on Tuesday, as the House and Senate prepared to consider a war spending bill that would order troops to be withdrawn from Iraq beginning later this year.
In separate appearances that served as a prelude to an inevitable veto showdown, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney accused Democrats of political opportunism in forging ahead with a $124 billion measure that sets a timetable for leaving Iraq.
“Instead of fashioning a bill I could sign, the Democratic leaders chose to further delay funding our troops, and they chose to make a political statement,” Mr. Bush said Tuesday morning before leaving for New York. “That’s their right. But it is wrong for our troops and it’s wrong for our country.”
Mr. Cheney was even tougher as he spoke to reporters after a private weekly lunch for Republican senators. He lashed out at Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, who delivered stinging comments of his own on Monday, portraying Mr. Bush as being in denial about the war and saying Mr. Cheney had tarnished his own office.
“What’s most troubling about Senator Reid’s comments yesterday is his defeatism,” said Mr. Cheney. “And the timetable legislation that he is now pursuing would guarantee defeat. Maybe it is a political calculation.”
Democrats, bolstered by what they see as strong public sentiment for the administration to wind down the war, were confident they could win approval of the measure in the House and in the Senate on Thursday. While acknowledging that Mr. Bush would send the bill back, they said they were determined to force him to formally reject legislation that provides more money for the military than sought by the White House, but puts conditions on its use.
“For the first time, the president will have to face up, will have to be accountable for this war in Iraq,” the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said. “And he doesn’t want to face that reality.”
Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq, is scheduled to visit Capitol Hill on Wednesday to ask that lawmakers allow more time for the troop increase initiated by the administration to work. Members of the House are set to hear from him in a closed briefing on Wednesday afternoon, just hours before the spending measure is to reach the floor. He is then scheduled to brief senators.
Democrats were skeptical that he would change many minds. “He’s the commander,” said Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. “We always know that commanders are optimistic about their policies.”
General Petraeus’s briefing will come in a week when war-related developments are not running in the administration’s favor. Nine American soldiers were killed in Iraq on Monday and 20 others were wounded. And members of the family of Cpl. Pat Tillman, the former professional football player and Army Ranger accidentally killed by other American soldiers in Afghanistan in 2004, appeared at an emotional House hearing Tuesday and accused the Pentagon and administration of misrepresenting the circumstances of his death.
Even as Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney repeated their claim that a deadline for beginning a troop withdrawal would cede Iraq to America’s enemies, it has quietly been setting targets of its own for the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to show progress on long-delayed political accommodations.
In a telephone interview from Baghdad, the new American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker, said President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates had bluntly told Mr. Maliki that failure to show results would undermine the administration’s efforts to buy him more time.
“There is Iraqi time and American time,” said Mr. Crocker. “And American time is running away from us, while Iraqi time is running at a slower place.”
Under the legislation before Congress, the United States would establish benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet to show progress in securing the country. If the president determines the Iraqis are complying, he would be directed to begin removing troops by Oct. 1, with a goal of having most combat forces out within six months. If the president concludes the Iraqis are not making progress on the benchmarks, the pullout would begin earlier, by July.
The House narrowly approved its version of the spending measure last month when it required a full withdrawal by fall of 2008 to mollify antiwar Democrats. Several House Democrats said they would support the latest version of the legislation, even though the withdrawal date is now in the form of a goal.
“It is the best we can do under the circumstances,” said Representative Hank Johnson, a first-term Democrat from Georgia.
While Republicans have argued strongly against the Democratic-sponsored Iraq spending plan, they have put forth little resistance to the actual legislation, saying they are simply waiting for the president’s veto so lawmakers can try again to come up with a war spending bill.
Instead, Republicans have turned their fire on Mr. Reid, who last week declared “this war is lost.”
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, took his turn on Tuesday, saying such comments damage the morale of the troops. “We should not be pulling the rug out from under them and declaring their whole effort lost before it’s even completed,” he said.
And the Republican National Committee aired radio ads in Nevada, featuring a former Army captain criticizing Mr. Reid’s remarks.
Discussing the Democratic approach on “The Charlie Rose Show” on PBS taped Tuesday, Mr. Bush was asked what evidence he had that a hard withdrawal date would have a negative impact in Iraq. “Just logic,” Mr. Bush replied. “I mean, you say we start moving troops out. Don’t you think an enemy is going to wait and adjust based upon an announced timetable of withdrawal?”
In his criticism of Mr. Reid, Mr. Cheney noted that the Democratic leader had said the administration’s troop increase ran counter to the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
The study group said that a troop increase might be advisable if commanders thought it would be useful. But Mr. Cheney failed to mention that it also recommended a withdrawal of combat units by the end of the first quarter of 2008, about the same time envisioned in the legislation.
Mr. Reid fired back directly at Mr. Cheney on Tuesday, appearing at the same microphones just moments after the vice president.
“The president sends out his attack dog often,” said Mr. Reid. “That’s also known as Dick Cheney.”
Defending the legislation up for a vote this week, he said, “We believe the troops should get every penny they need and we have put our money where our mouth is with supplemental appropriations, but we believe there must be a change of direction in the war in Iraq.”
Mr. Reid said he was not going to engage in a tit-for-tat with the vice president. “I’m not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody who has a 9 percent approval rating,” Mr. Reid said.
David E. Sanger and David S. Cloud contributed reporting from Washington, and Jim Rutenberg from New York.

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