- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2002

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who last week criticized President Bush for the direction of the war in Afghanistan, is now praising the president's leadership.
In a resolution, Mr. Daschle declares that the Senate "stands united with the president in the ongoing effort to destroy al Qaeda." He also offers condolences to the families of U.S. troops killed in action.
"I think that on occasion it is important for us to speak with one voice in support of our troop efforts, and we're looking for an opportunity to do that," said Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.
The about-face, initiated by Mr. Daschle's office after eight U.S. troops were killed in combat this weekend, follows the storm of protest he raised last week by calling into question the direction and success of the war.
"I think Senator Daschle saw how difficult it was to criticize the commander in chief during the conduct of the war, and perhaps he's trying to reaffirm his support," said Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican.
An aide to Mr. Daschle said his office received an increased volume of phone calls after his criticisms last week but did not know whether the callers supported or opposed his stance.
Democrats continued to search yesterday for safe ground on which to differ with the White House on the war. Some Democrats complained that the administration was not briefing them on the war's direction and on emergency plans to keep the government running.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said Democrats are still searching for an election issue as the opposition party.
"When you don't have anything substantive to talk about, you start talking about process or how you need more information," Mr. Lott said. "That's what's happening here. Senators that are grouchy that they're not getting enough information … they can't complain about the war on terror, they can't complain about the economy because the economy appears to be improving. And so what do they have to complain about? 'Oh, gee, I need more information.'"
Mr. Daschle, after meeting with Mr. Bush at the White House yesterday, downplayed the dispute over being kept out of the war loop.
"I don't want to complicate those plans any more by going on and on about who was notified when," Mr. Daschle said. "I don't believe that there was adequate notification [on government contingency plans]. Having said that, we will move on."
The resolution proposed by Mr. Daschle and co-sponsored by Mr. Lott expresses "the gratitude of the nation" to U.S. Armed Forces in Operation Enduring Freedom. It offers condolences "to the families of the brave American service personnel who have lost their lives defending America in the war against terrorism."
Last week, Mr. Daschle criticized the war operation as "expansion without at least clear direction" and said America will have failed if U.S. forces do not find terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
Several colleagues came to Mr. Daschle's defense yesterday while emphasizing that Democrats did support the administration's war effort.
"Republicans turned on him as a group with questions about his patriotism and things that should never have been raised," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat. "We have a congressional responsibility to ask some hard questions even if we support the president, which we do."
Said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, "I don't think that Tom Daschle would say anything different than the president said, which is the war is being prosecuted well but we have a ways to go."
But Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, said yesterday the renewed fighting in Afghanistan signaled a change in administration policy by increasing the use of U.S. ground troops.
"The administration argued that … we could in fact get the job done with relatively few American forces and significant Afghan forces," Mr. Biden said. "Now the administration has apparently concluded that it can't get done that way this time. It seems to be an inevitability. We are far from finished in Afghanistan. One of the questions that's going to be raised before it's over is, 'Do we need more military presence in Afghanistan to get the job done?' I suspect you'll hear that debate."
Several lawmakers said Mr. Bush had warned from the outset that the war would be long and would consist of lulls and periods of intense fighting.
"This is still going to require patience and commitment," Mr. Lott said. "And we're after some of the most hardened al Qaeda troops right now, and we need to be united and supportive in that effort."
Mr. Kyl dismissed complaints that lawmakers were not being briefed adequately on the war, noting that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld would conduct another briefing for the Senate today.
"It's not hard to be briefed by the administration," Mr. Kyl said. "Certainly, the majority leader has access to a lot more material than I do. Except for the specifics of operations … that information is available to us by picking up the telephone."


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide