- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2006

Democratic and Republican leaders yesterday lauded Saddam Hussein’s conviction and death sentence, but debated whether the verdict in Baghdad would have any impact on the midterm elections tomorrow.

President Bush interrupted his weekend of campaigning for Republican candidates to make a statement on the verdict.

“History will record today’s judgment as an important achievement on the path to a free and just and unified society,” Mr. Bush said. “The United States is proud to stand with the Iraqi people. We will continue to support Iraq’s unity government as it works to bring peace to its great country.”

“The Iraqi people are to be commended for bringing Saddam to justice in an Iraqi court,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. “I commend our brave American troops in Iraq as well, for the trial could not have taken place without the security and logistical support they provided.”

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, said, “Hussein has come a long way from torturing and killing his own people to hiding in a hole in the ground to experiencing the very rights he denied his fellow citizens.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Saddam’s conviction a “reminder to all Iraqis that the rule of law can triumph over the rule of fear.”

On “Fox News Sunday,” House Majority Leader John A. Boehner was asked whether the former Iraqi dictator’s conviction would energize Republican voters.

“I think so, and I think defeating the terrorists is the only option that we have,” the Ohio Republican said. “Democrats just want to give up in Iraq. They just want to pull out the troops.”

Democrats were united in their praise of the verdict but renewed their call for changing policy in Iraq.

“We have seen milestones pass in Iraq before with no lasting signs of progress,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. “If today’s sentencing is to be any different, we need to take a new direction in Iraq.”

Mrs. Pelosi condemned the “failure of President Bush and his administration to have a plan in place before the war started to complete the mission successfully,” adding, “The scope of that failure is not lessened by the results of Saddam’s trial.”

During an impromptu press conference aboard Air Force One, White House spokesman Tony Snow reacted sarcastically to a reporter’s suggestion that the verdict in Baghdad was a belated “October surprise.”

“The possible timing of this, just before the elections — some people might be skeptical of that?” a reporter asked.

“Are you smoking rope?” replied Mr. Snow, saying it was “absolutely crazy” to think the Saddam verdict was timed to coincide with the midterm elections. But he nonetheless suggested that voters would take note.

“I think American voters ought to be heartened by it,” Mr. Snow said.

However, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Saddam’s conviction was a “foregone conclusion,” and therefore would not sway voters.

“No, I don’t think so. … I don’t think it will have any impact on the election,” he said, but added that “there’s a special place reserved in hell for Saddam.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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