- The Washington Times - Monday, April 15, 2002

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) A key Democratic senator accused the Bush administration of having "muddied our moral clarity" by pressuring Israel not to protect itself against terrorists after the U.S. response to the September 11 attacks.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman told the Florida Democratic Convention that President Bush "has brought a moral clarity" to the terrorism conflict around in Afghanistan and around the world.
But the Connecticut Democrat said "the Bush administration has really muddied our moral clarity." He said Israel has been attacked in "a relentless campaign of suicide bombers killers with the same disregard for human life as those who attacked us September 11th."
Meanwhile, another Democratic presidential hopeful criticized the president for taking too long to get involved in the conflict, suggesting that foreign affairs won't be immune much longer from partisan political debate.
Over the past six months, Democrats have tried to avoid explicit criticism of the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, but the violence in the Middle East is becoming an increasingly popular topic.
The Connecticut lawmaker visited the convention with other potential 2004 presidential candidates including Al Gore, the party's 2000 presidential nominee, and Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina.
Mr. Lieberman said Mr. Bush's attempts to pressure Israel against fighting terrorism as aggressively as the United States "risks losing the high ground and compromising our own war on terrorism."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan pointed to a response Sunday from National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.
"The president could not have been clearer," she said on NBC. "It is not that Israel does not have the right to defend itself, but it is that, in taking certain actions, Israel needs to be cognizant of the fact that it will never solve this problem by military power alone. And that is wholly consistent with the way that the United States has gone about its own war on terrorism."
Mr. Kerry told the convention he understood Israel's right to respond to suicide bombers on the West Bank. But he criticized the Bush administration for waiting more than a year before trying to broker peace talks.
"A great nation like ours should not be dragged kicking and resisting" to the task of ending the violence, Mr. Kerry said.
"We must not only be prepared to take risks to wage war," he said, "but we must also be prepared to take risks to make peace."


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