- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 15, 2006


Candidates in Minnesota’s closely watched U.S. Senate race clashed yesterday on Iraq and tax policy, with the Republican defending his vote to authorize the war in Iraq.

“You can’t really play TiVo and rewind,” said Rep. Mark Kennedy, when asked during a debate on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether he would still vote for the war knowing that then-Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. “We acted on the information we knew at the time. I stand by my vote.”

Democrat Amy Klobuchar, the Hennepin County prosecutor, said it was time to have Iraqis take more control of their country and start bringing U.S. troops home.

“You cannot solve a problem that you don’t admit exists, and that is what’s going on here with the congressman,” she said. “This war has basically devolved into a civil war.”

The answer, she said, is not more troops on the ground, but a diplomatic and political solution.

Mr. Kennedy and Mrs. Klobuchar are seeking to succeed Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton, who is not running for re-election. With just over three weeks before the Nov. 7 election, a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll published yesterday showed Mrs. Klobuchar ahead 55 percent to 34 percent among likely voters, nearly the same margin as it was in September.

Mr. Kennedy, a three-term congressman, dismissed that poll in a meeting with reporters after the debate. “This is a single-digit race,” he said. Separately, Mrs. Klobuchar said the “only poll that matters” is on Election Day.

In the debate, Mr. Kennedy said Iraq was the top issue in the race and that the war was central to the global fight against terrorism.

He said Mrs. Klobuchar “has set out a specific timetable for bringing our troops home that would tell the terrorists when they can take over an oil-rich country as a sanctuary for terrorists.”

Mrs. Klobuchar said she was not pressing for an immediate return of all U.S. troops from Iraq.

“We have to be reasonable,” she said. “I have never subscribed to one of those mandatory dates because I understand that, despite my opposition to the war from the beginning, that we have to be responsible about how we bring our troops home.”

Asked what the U.S. should do if it were to leave Iraq and a full-blown civil war were to erupt, Mrs. Klobuchar said American troops should be redeployed to surrounding areas so they can return quickly if needed. She also called for bolstering security in the United States.

On tax policy, Mr. Kennedy criticized Mrs. Klobuchar for calling for a rollback of President Bush’s tax cuts.

“We cannot be raising taxes, putting this economy back on its back, and also not growing jobs,” Mr. Kennedy said.

Mrs. Klobuchar said that returning tax levels for the richest to what they paid during the Clinton administration, when the economy was doing well, would help lower the federal deficit.

“When a liberal says they’re going to soak the rich,” quipped Mr. Kennedy, “the middle class gets drenched.”

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