- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2003


House Majority Leader Tom DeLay yesterday lashed out at Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, for his criticism of President Bush’s Iraq policy, describing the comments as a “new low” and calling on presidential candidates to repudiate the remarks.

In an interview with the Associated Press Thursday, Mr. Kennedy said the case for going to war against Iraq was a fraud “made up in Texas” to give Republicans a political boost, and the money for the war was being used to bribe foreign leaders to send troops.

Those words drew the wrath of Mr. DeLay, Texas Republican.

In a statement released yesterday, Mr. DeLay said Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and other Democratic presidential hopefuls should “have the courage” to repudiate Mr. Kennedy’s remarks, which he called a “new low.” And he said it was “disturbing that Democrats have spewed more hateful rhetoric at President Bush then they ever did at Saddam Hussein.”

After a day’s silence on the matter, the White House also responded to Mr. Kennedy’s comments.

“This is the kind of charged political rhetoric here that obscures the real policy debate, which is how we make America safer in a post-September 11 world,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. “September 11 taught us we need to confront new threats before they reach the shores.”

Responding to Mr. DeLay’s call for Democratic presidential candidates to disavow Mr. Kennedy’s comments, Mr. Kerry fired back — at the Texas lawmaker.

“Tom DeLay is a bully,” Mr. Kerry said. “He tried to bully Democrats in Texas and we’re not going to accept his shrill partisan attacks or allow him to suggest that patriotism belongs to one political party.”

Mr. Kerry was referring to Mr. DeLay’s role in redistricting Texas’ congressional boundaries to benefit Republicans.

Mr. Kennedy dismissed DeLay’s comments, saying that once again Republican leaders are avoiding questions about Mr. Bush’s policies “by attacking the patriotism of those who question them.”

Mr. Kennedy also elaborated on his comments in an interview on CNN yesterday, saying the administration is announcing an $8.5 billion loan to Turkey, and that country will then provide military assistance in Iraq.

“It didn’t have to be this way,” he said. “We wouldn’t have to be providing these billions of dollars to these countries to … coerce them or bribe them to send their troops in, if we’d done it the right way, if we’d gone to the United Nations, if we had built an international constituency.”

Mr. McClellan called the funding charges “more political rhetoric that have no basis in fact.”

Mr. DeLay didn’t defend the administration’s policy, preferring to put the responsibility on Democrats to take sides. But the Democratic drumbeat against the Bush administration’s Iraq policies has only intensified in recent days.

Earlier this week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, a senior member of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, called on Mr. Bush to fire advisers who helped set U.S. policy in Iraq because it has been riddled with miscalculations over armed opposition and rebuilding.

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