- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Democrats said President Bush failed to make his case for military action against Iraq during his State of the Union address last night, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said he will introduce another war-approval resolution before Congress.
"Much has changed in the many months since Congress last debated war with Iraq," Mr. Kennedy said last night, pointing to the work of U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq and to the nuclear crisis in North Korea. "To ensure that we are protecting the American people at home and abroad, another vote is necessary if the time has come for war."
The Massachusetts Democrat said he will introduce a resolution to require the president to present evidence to Congress of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's defiance before going to war.
Congress approved a resolution in October allowing Mr. Bush to use force against Iraq to implement U.N. resolutions on Iraqi disarmament. But the resolution did not make explicit U.N. approval necessary for military action.
Democrats also called on Mr. Bush to take care of domestic issues by backing up his words with funding something they said he has failed to do during the first two years of his presidency.
"To be strong abroad, we need to be strong at home," Gov. Gary Locke of Washington said in the Democratic response. "Today, in too many ways, our country is headed in the wrong direction. We are missing the opportunity to strengthen America for the future."
"Tonight the president used all the right rhetoric but he still has all the wrong policies," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. "The real test of the president's speech isn't how many promises he makes, it's whether he provides the leadership to make good on those promises. We'll know better next week when the president sends his budget to Congress."
But Republicans said the president presented a strong challenge to Congress and the nation as he laid out his administration's agenda, which focused on tax cuts, providing prescription-drug benefits to seniors and defending the United States from outlaw regimes, terrorists and weapons of mass destruction.
"President Bush gave a speech tonight befitting a strong leader of a great nation," said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican. "Some may question the threats arrayed against us. Some may doubt the path that we must follow. And some may wish that this whole business of war would just go away. But unless we stand fast and stand strong, the forces of evil will not disappear. They will only grow stronger. This is not the time for the timid leadership offered by the naysayers. This threat calls for the strong leadership of a resolute leader."
Democrats were particularly concerned that Mr. Bush seems headed toward war against Iraq without providing a compelling justification for military action.
"He kept saying, 'If war is forced upon us,'" said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat and the new chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. "War has not been forced upon us. I don't think he made a sufficient case for us to go to war without allowing the inspectors to do their job."
But Republicans said Mr. Bush succeeded in making his case.
"The longer Saddam Hussein remains in power, the more those freedoms we enjoy are at risk. He's been given every opportunity to leave Iraq freely and peacefully," said House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican. "The world's been playing cat-and-mouse with him for too long, and the president tonight laid out reasons why he represents a clear and present danger."
Republicans said Mr. Kennedy's resolution may not even be brought to the floor for a vote.
Democrats' criticism of Mr. Bush was much more pointed this year than in 2002, when the polls found the president to be immensely popular because of his handling of the September 11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan. Several Democratic presidential candidates for 2004 weighed in yesterday as well. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut said the state of the union "continues to be unsteady" nearly a year and a half after September 11.
Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and another candidate for president, said: "He talked about fighting AIDS in Africa but pulled the rug out from under [Tennessee Republican Sen.] Bill Frist and me last fall when he had the chance to make America the world's leader in fighting that pandemic."
Not all Democrats were critical of the president, however.
"I like what I heard tonight," said Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, who said he plans to support "each and every tax cut that comes before the Senate."
Stephen Dinan contributed to this story.


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