- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 22, 2002

The wisdom of supporting a president on foreign policy is not lost on Senate Democrats running for re-election this year, and many of them are giving unqualified support to President Bush's request to use military force against Iraq.
"I thought the president was right on target," said Sen. Jean Carnahan, the Missouri Democrat who trails her Republican opponent, Jim Talent, in the latest polls.
Many of her Democratic colleagues raised concerns in a closed meeting Thursday night about the administration's proposed resolution on military action, but Mrs. Carnahan told reporters she has no qualms.
"I was 100 percent behind it," she said. "I intend to vote for it."
Sen. Max Baucus, the four-term Montana Democrat whom Republicans increasingly believe they have a good chance to unseat this November, said he liked the president's draft, though he had yet to see a copy.
"I'm quite confident I will support it," said Mr. Baucus, whose state Mr. Bush carried handily in 2000.
The administration says it needs a use-of-force resolution from Congress before lawmakers adjourn next month because Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein continues to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Democrats, who hold a one-seat margin in the Senate, at first tried to delay a vote until after the elections. But, with two-thirds of the public supporting Mr. Bush, Democratic leaders quickly dropped the delaying tactic and agreed to a vote in early October.
The tough spot in which Democrats find themselves this election season was voiced Friday by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, one of Mr. Bush's most outspoken critics.
"This is the worst kind of election-year politics," Mr. Byrd said of the White House proposal. "I cannot believe the gall and the arrogance of the White House in requesting such a broad grant of war powers. The resolution is a direct insult and an affront to the powers given to Congress on matters of war under the Constitution."
Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, who is expected to keep her seat in November, said she agrees with the president about the threat posed by Saddam.
"I'm generally supportive and willing to use force," Mrs. Landrieu said. "I think we need to continue our press for diplomacy, but I'm willing to go forward, even if we have to go it with limited support because I think the threat is real."
Even Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, one of the most liberal Democrats in the Senate, was careful Friday to emphasize his willingness to work with the White House on the resolution.
"We're going to discuss it and work it out," said Mr. Harkin, who is running for re-election against Rep. Greg Ganske, Iowa Republican.
Republicans say the war on terrorism and the Iraq situation benefit them, but they don't know if that advantage will last through Nov. 5.
"The president has handled this very, very well," said Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the fourth-ranking Republican in the Senate. "The president is the leader of the Republican Party, and as a result of that, it probably inures to the benefit of Republicans. But we're a month-and-a-half yet before the election.
"There's lots of time for other issues to come up," he said. "It's significant, it's important, it has an impact on the campaigns now, but whether it has lasting impact in November, I don't know."
Mr. Santorum said debate on a war resolution affects Republican and Democratic candidates alike.
"This has risks for everybody," he said. "That's really the concern it creates political uncertainty prior to an election, and nobody likes that. Nobody in politics, Republican or Democrat, likes to have votes like this, and the president realizes that. But we've got to do this. This is not about politics; this is about national security."
Democrats attempted last week to return the public's attention to economic issues, which they believe will benefit them in November.
"This administration wants to focus on anything but the economy," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, who is expected to win re-election easily in November. "The crashing Dow Jones [and] the anemic economy are things that they are avoiding at any cost. The president always has the power of the pulpit. Once he decides to focus exclusively on an issue, he can capture the attention of [reporters], who write about nothing else."
Republicans say they expect the public's attention to return to the economy in the final weeks of the campaign season.
Candidates "are talking about Iraq, [and] they're talking about the war on terrorism, but their ads are focused on jobs and taxes and Social Security and Medicare," Mr. Santorum said. "Because we understand, in the end, those are the base kind of issues, those are the pocketbook issues."


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