Kennedy, Leahy Blast Bush's Iraq Wake-Up Call
“It’s deeply disturbing that it takes a close election – not in Iraq, but in America – to get this White House to even talk about flexibility and changing course," said Kennedy. "American and Iraqi deaths didn’t do it. The growing insurgency and increasing sectarian violence didn’t do it. The conclusion in April by our intelligence community that the Iraq war is a rallying cry for anti-American extremism didn’t do it. Only the prospect of losing his rubber stamp Congress and the President’s own low polls seem to penetrate the wall of denial around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."
Kennedy also rebutted Bush's recent claim that his longstanding stay-the-course mantra has been a figment of 300 million Americans' imaginations.
"Sadly, the bottom line is that it's still a stay-the-course strategy from the White House. The President may have abandoned the label but he has not abandoned the failed strategy," said the Massachusetts Senator.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also responded quickly, saying that Bush's mild admission that things may not be going just peachy in Iraq and his replacement of the notion of a troop-withdrawal timeline with the word "benchmark," are clearly a function of the looming midterm elections.
“For years the President has said his policy in Iraq is to ‘stay the course’ and he ridiculed anyone who urged him to change course," said Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Now, as the crisis worsens and November nears, he declares that ‘stay the course’ is no longer operative. He has conveniently changed his words, but not his policies."
Leahy's strongest response was for Bush's claim that the midterm elections should be decided on the economy and on "who will best protect this country."
“It is appalling that after spending hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ dollars and sacrificing 2,700 American lives, our country is less secure today," said Leahy. "The Bush-Cheney Administration’s bad decisions and poor planning have squandered our resources and our opportunities to make America safer."
"Imagine how different today’s world would be if the Bush-Cheney Administration had not diverted our forces to Iraq and if we had put muscle into capturing Osama bin Laden and rebuilding Afghanistan."
Update: Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) just issued this statement on Bush's press conference today:
"The President’s head-in-the-sand approach to the worsening situation in Iraq is undermining our national security. While his rhetoric may have changed, the President gave no indication that he would change his failed policy in Iraq. The President says he doesn’t want Iraq to become a terrorist haven like Afghanistan was under the Taliban, but his failed Iraq-centric approach has resulted in a recent resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. We need a new policy for Iraq that includes a timetable for the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq so we can focus on the threats to our national security around the world."