Clinton, Obama Defend Votes on War Bill

By BETH FOUHY
The Associated Press
Friday, May 25, 2007; 8:51 PM

MASON CITY, Iowa -- Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama forcefully defended their votes against paying for the Iraq war as the top Republican presidential candidates angrily accused the two of weakness on national security.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., assailed his Democratic foes for embracing "the policy of surrender," while Mitt Romney said the two showed a willingness to "abandon principle in favor of political positioning." Rudy Giuliani argued both "flip-flopped" and said: "They've gone from an anti-war position to an anti-military, anti-troops position."

Campaigning in Iowa, Clinton argued that she backs U.S. troops but it was time to stand firm as the four-year-old war rages on.

"I think it's important for someone like me who's been a strong supporter of the military and has worked hard to get our troops everything they need to start saying, 'Look, the best thing we can do for them is to get them out of the middle of this sectarian civil war,'" said the New York senator, who serves with McCain on the Armed Services Committee.

Her comments met with loud applause from several hundred people at a town meeting in Mason City.

Hours after the Senate vote, Democrats and Republicans unleashed critical, increasingly personal statements challenging their rivals _ rhetoric certain to appeal to each party's core voters. McCain even went as far as to correct Obama's spelling of flak jacket.

Obama defended his vote as one for a new Iraq policy for the country and U.S. troops.

"So let's put aside the fear mongering and let's put aside the rhetoric and let's put aside the politics and let's come together and ... all of us support the troops," Obama told a labor gathering in Chicago as he called for bringing the troops home. "That's our message to George Bush. That's our message to John McCain. That's our message to Mitt Romney. That's our message to Republicans in Congress."

The Illinois senator, in a statement, said the Republican candidates "clearly believe the course we are on in Iraq is working, but I do not." He then pointed to McCain's recent visit to a Baghdad market under heavy guard as a reflection of a failing policy.

The seemingly endless back-and-forth between the GOP and Democratic contenders came a day after Congress sent President Bush legislation to pay for the war through September. It did not include a timetable for withdrawing troops that Democrats and anti-war activists had sought.

Both Clinton and Obama have faced intense pressure from the party's liberal wing and Democratic presidential challengers who urged opposition to the measure because it doesn't include a timeline to end the war.

One of those rivals, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, criticized Congress' approval of the war funding bill Friday, saying: "Washington has failed America." He argued in Fort Madison, Iowa, that lawmakers had a mandate as a result of the last election and "that mandate was to stop this war."


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