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Democrats Split on How to End the War

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, one of 10 presidential contenders at the Democratic summit, said:
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, one of 10 presidential contenders at the Democratic summit, said: "The Congress passed a resolution authorizing war. They need to pass another one that overturns that authorization." (By Andrew Councill -- Bloomberg News)

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By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 4, 2007

The war in Iraq is shaping the opening stages of the contest for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, just as it did in the 2004 campaign.

After 10 candidates' speeches over two days at the winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, the war proved again to be the central point of differentiation among the party's presidential contenders.

What emerged was a division over how to stop the war, one likely to intensify as Congress debates measures ranging from a nonbinding resolution condemning President Bush's proposal to send more troops to Iraq to more controversial legislation that would restrict or cut off funds for the military mission.

Four years ago, former Vermont governor Howard Dean tapped into the growing opposition to the war among party activists and turned a long-shot candidacy into a force to be reckoned with until his campaign imploded in Iowa.

Now everyone running opposes the war, but the self-styled outsiders in the race -- those not in the Senate -- see political gain in pressing for a speedy end to the war, and in the process they are putting pressure on prominent candidates such as Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) to follow suit.

"As someone who served in Congress for 14 years, I know the power they hold, should they choose to wield it," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson told the DNC yesterday at the Hilton Washington hotel. "The Congress passed a resolution authorizing war. They need to pass another one that overturns that authorization and brings our troops home by the end of the calendar year."

Former senator John Edwards (N.C.) was equally adamant on Friday that members of Congress stand up against the president. "It is a betrayal not to stop this president's plan to escalate the war when we have the responsibility, the power and the ability to stop it," he said. "We cannot be satisfied with passing nonbinding resolutions that we know this president will ignore."

Edwards favors an immediate withdrawal of up to 50,000 troops, with the rest brought home within 18 months.

Former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack was just as pointed in calling for congressional Democrats to act boldly to stop the war. "I think Congress has a constitutional responsibility and a moral obligation to do it now," he said yesterday. "Not a cap, an end. Not eventually, immediately. Those who voted for the war, those who voted to continue to support the war, those who voted to continue funding the war can surely vote to stop the war."

Clinton on Friday defended her support for a nonbinding resolution expressing disapproval of the plan to send more troops to Iraq, but she made a point to say that she is now ready to press for tougher action.

"I want to go further," she told the audience of Democrats who will be delegates at the party's national convention in 2008. She outlined other steps she has proposed to cap the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and pressure the Iraqi government. But she has so far resisted embracing any timetable for bringing home the troops.

Obama, who is to formally launch his candidacy Saturday in Illinois, opposed the war initially and last week moved past Clinton with a proposal to withdraw virtually all U.S. forces by March 31, 2008.

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