- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2007


Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton offered a new GI Bill of Rights for men and women in uniform, arguing that Democrats can do a better job of protecting and providing for U.S. troops than the Republican administration.

“This administration is frankly unable to run a two-car parade,” the Democratic presidential candidate said in a speech at the Center for American Progress, a think tank run by former Clinton White House aide John Podesta.

The New York senator, who leads early polls of Democratic contenders for the party’s nomination, said she would put together a package of proposals designed to ensure troops have all the equipment they need when they’re deployed, to ensure they receive proper health care, and to provide for families.

“I am here to say the buck does stop with this president, and if he doesn’t take responsibility, I can assure you that the next president will,” Mrs. Clinton said yesterday.

Republicans dismissed her criticism as campaign posturing.

“It’s the politically convenient calculation that Americans have come to expect from the senator,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt.

Her proposals include pre-screening troops for physical and mental conditions before they are deployed, and giving single parents in uniform more guardianship options.

She also insisted that more needs to be done for those suffering from traumatic brain injuries, which she called “the signature injury of the war in Iraq.”

Her call for better benefits for troops comes amid a public outcry over conditions at outpatient facilities at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a military hospital roughly seven miles from both the White House and Congress.

“In the leadership vacuum that has been left by the Bush administration, too many members of the military and their families have been left literally holding their breath,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Mrs. Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been an outspoken critic of President Bush’s handling of the Iraq war, but she has resisted calls by some in her party to label her 2002 vote authorizing the war a “mistake.” She has said she wouldn’t have voted to authorize the war if she knew then what she knows now.

Her proposals come as Democrats in Congress seek to curtail Mr. Bush’s recent troop increase to Iraq — an effort Republicans charge is tantamount to abandoning U.S. troops in the field.

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