- The Washington Times - Friday, October 17, 2003

Nobles: Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt, for backing his convictions on Iraq with candor and courage.

In his battles with Congress over the war in Iraq, President Bush has had a most unlikely ally — a man who wants to replace him as president. Yet, Mr. Gephardt has not only backed the president’s policies in tough votes, he has supported them in statements and speeches.

In his principal foreign policy speech — to the San Francisco Bar Association, no less — Mr. Gephardt proclaimed, “I’m here as a supporter of the war in Iraq.” He punctuated the point a moment later, “I make no apologies for supporting the war in Iraq. And I still hope and pray for the president’s success in world affairs.”

That support is probably hurting his presidential bid, considering how unpopular the war has been among the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. A bit of a pander to the left would likely put him in better play with his base. At the least, he could have ducked the debate over the Iraqi supplemental.

Instead, he again stated earlier this week, “I will support the $87 billion supplemental request because it is the only responsible course of action.”

His continued support of the operation in Iraq proves his political courage and statesmanship. For refusing to pander for votes, Mr. Gephardt is the Noble of the week.

Knaves: The Iraq supplemental’s bolting Senate Republicans.

The most contentious portion of the $87 billion supplemental Congress dealt with this week were funds for the reconstruction of Iraq. The administration rightly argued that the allocations be given unconditionally — just as the American lives that were offered on the battlefield.

However, others disagreed, demanding the money be paid back. Specifically, Sen. Evan Bayh offered an amendment making half of the aid a loan, to be made up out of Iraq’s oil revenues. It will be forgiven only if the nations to whom Iraq owes up to $200 billion agree to forgive those debts as well.

Five Republicans co-sponsored Mr. Bayh’s amendment — Sens. John Ensign, Susan Collins, Saxby Chambliss, Olympia Snowe and Lindsey Graham — and each of them voted for it on the floor as well. However, had they been the only Republicans defecting, the vote would have resulted in a 49-49 tie, which Vice President Cheney could have broken. Rather, the 51-47 defeat was a consequence of three other Republicans who also broke ranks — Sens. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Lisa Murkowski and Sam Brownback.

The Bayh amendment might make sense in the strictest fiscal sense, but strategic issues are at stake. Demanding that Iraq repay half of the reconstruction aid will make it more difficult for the administration to raise funds at next week’s donor conference in Madrid. It’s also petty, considering the costs of the war and the fact that Americans are still shedding their blood for Iraqi liberty. For pandering to short-term public sentiment, and not backing the president on a judgment he is uniquely positioned to assess, the Republican backers of the Bayh amendment are the Knaves of the week.

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