Candidates spar over war funding

May 26, 2007|By Scott Martelle | Scott Martelle,Los Angeles Times

The war in Iraq spawned a political war of words yesterday, after Congress approved a $120 billion military spending measure opposed by the top Democratic presidential candidates and supported by the top Republican contenders.

President Bush signed the bill yesterday after a bitter struggle with Democrats in Congress who sought unsuccessfully to tie the money to U.S. troop withdrawals.

In announcing the signing, White House spokesman Tony Fratto noted that it came 109 days after Bush sent his emergency spending request to Congress.

Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama both voted against the bill after a compromise dropped a U.S. troop-withdrawal timetable as a requirement for continued funding of the war.

Former Sen. John Edwards condemned the vote and urged anti-war supporters to join in Memorial Day Weekend events protesting the war but supporting the troops.

"No one else is going to end this war for us," Edwards said in an e-mail to supporters. "Bush will not listen. Congress will not fight. There's no one left to lead the country now but we the people."

Republican presidential contender Sen. John McCain, who voted for the measure and has supported the war while criticizing its execution, criticized Clinton and Obama for casting votes that "may win favor with MoveOn and liberal primary voters, but it's the equivalent of waving a white flag to al-Qaida."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney joined in, saying the votes display Clinton and Obama's "lack of leadership and serves as a glaring example of an unrealistic and inexperienced worldview on national security." Romney said the votes would "render them undependable in the eyes of the men and women of the United States military and the American people."

Obama fired back that "Governor Romney and Senator McCain clearly believe the course we are on in Iraq is working, but I do not."

"This country is united in our support for our troops, but we also owe them a plan to relieve them of the burden of policing someone else's civil war," Obama said. "And if there ever was a reflection of that it's the fact that Senator McCain required a flack jacket, ten armored Humvees, two Apache attack helicopters, and 100 soldiers with rifles by his side to stroll through a market in Baghdad just a few weeks ago."

McCain responded with a slap at Obama's experience and grasp of military terminology.

"While Senator Obama's two years in the U.S. Senate certainly entitle him to vote against funding our troops, my service and experience combined with conversations with military leaders on the ground in Iraq lead me to believe that we must give this new strategy a chance to succeed because the consequences of failure would be catastrophic to our nation's security," McCain said

"By the way, Senator Obama, it's a `flak' jacket, not a `flack' jacket," McCain said.

Scott Martelle writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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