- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sen. Charles E. Schumer yesterday said he and his fellow Democrats oppose President Bush’s plan to send an additional 4,700 troops to Iraq as part of their larger strategy to change the conflict’s “entire mission.”

“What we have to do is divide it,” the New York Democrat said during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I think most Democrats will support more troops in Afghanistan. After all, that’s where the nexus of terrorism is. bin Laden is still there.”

“But as for Iraq, whether it’s 4,000 more troops or 40,000 more troops, we Democrats believe almost unanimously that we need a dramatic change in course,” he said. “So when the supplemental spending resolution comes before us next week, we are going to be focusing on the entire mission in Iraq and try to get it changed.”

Over the weekend, Mr. Bush announced plans to deploy 8,200 more troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, in addition to the 21,500 he recently requested for a surge of U.S. forces into Iraq.

“While bin Laden and other terrorists have been clear that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, it’s troubling that Chuck Schumer and other Democrats continue to dismiss the significance of working to achieve victory there,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt, in a response to Mr. Schumer’s comments.

Sen. Arlen Specter, who appeared with Mr. Schumer on “Face the Nation,” said he wanted to give the surge of troops in Iraq more time before deciding whether or not to support Mr. Bush’s plan. The Pennsylvania Republican also said he opposes how House Democrats have proceeded with their strategy for forcing a withdrawal of U.S. forces.

“You have Congressman Murtha’s proposal, which is excessive micromanagement. Can’t be done,” Mr. Spector said.

In addition, at least one leading Democratic senator questioned the ability of Congress to stop Mr. Bush’s request.

“As long as he has the authority as commander in chief to conduct a war, he’s going to be able to control a lot of these sorts of things. I don’t think people are going to go against him in terms of cutting back the appropriations for more troops,” Sen. James H. Webb Jr., Virginia Democrat, told ABC’s “This Week.”

Mr. Webb, who won his closely contested race last year largely on his opposition to the war, also praised the administration for recent diplomatic maneuvers, including multilateral discussions with Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran and Syria.

“The big question is, how are we going to turn this thing around? And I think, despite a lot of the rhetoric that you’ve seen, we’ve started to do that,” he said. “I’ve watched Secretary Rice listen and start moving this in a different direction, and obviously with the quiet ascent of the president, and I think it’s a very healthy sign.”

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