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Helen Thomas: Democrats play into Bush's hands

Published October 4, 2007 12:00 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

WASHINGTON -President Bush has no better friends than the spineless Democratic congressional leadership and the party's leading presidential candidates when it comes to his failing Iraq policy.

These Democrats seem to have forgotten that the American people want U.S. troops out of Iraq, especially since Bush still cannot give a credible reason for attacking Iraq after nearly five years of war.

Last week, at a debate in Hanover, N.H., the leading Democratic presidential candidates sang from the same songbook: Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, along with former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, refused to promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by 2013, at the end of the first term of their hypothetical presidencies. Can you believe it?

When the question was put to Clinton, she reverted to her usual cautious equivocation, saying: "It is very difficult to know what we're going to be inheriting."

Obama dodged, too: "I think it would be irresponsible" to say what he would do as president.

Edwards, on whom hopes were riding to show some independence, replied to the question: "I cannot make that commitment."

They have left the voters little choice with those answers.

Some supporters were outraged at the obfuscation by the Democratic front runners.

On the other hand, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio; and Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., are more definitive in their calls for quick troop withdrawals.

But Biden wants to break up Iraq into three provinces along religious and ethnic lines. In other words, Balkanize Iraq.

To have major Democratic backing to stay the course in Iraq added up to good news for Bush.

Now comes a surprising Clinton fan.

President Bush told Bill Sammon - Washington Examiner correspondent and author of a new book titled The Evangelical President - that Clinton will beat Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination because she is a "formidable candidate" and better known.

Sammon says Bush revealed that he has been sending messages to Clinton to urge her to "maintain some political wiggle room in your campaign rhetoric about Iraq."

The author said Bush contends that whoever inherits the White House will be faced with a potential vacuum in Iraq and "will begin to understand the need to continue to support the young democracy."

Bush ought to know about campaign rhetoric. Remember how he ridiculed "nation building" in the 2000 presidential campaign? Now he claims he is trying to spread democracy throughout the Middle East.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is another Democratic leader who has empowered Bush's war.

Pelosi removed a provision from the most recent war-funding bill, which would have required Bush to seek the permission of Congress before launching any attack on Iran. Her spokesman gave the lame excuse that she didn't like the wording of the provision. More likely, she bowed to political pressure.

Is it any wonder the Democrats are faring lower than the president in a Washington Post/ABC approval poll? Bush came in at 33 percent and Congress at 29 percent.

Members of Congress seem to have forgotten their constitutional prerogative to declare war; World War II was the last time Congress formally did so.

Presidents have found other ways to make end runs around the law, mainly by obtaining congressional authorization "to do whatever is necessary" in a crisis involving use of the military. That's the way we got into the Vietnam and Iraqi wars.

So what are the leading Democratic White House hopefuls offering? It seems nothing but more war. So where do the voters go who are sick of the Iraqi debacle?

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Helen Thomas can be reached at 202-263-6400 or at the e-mail address hthomas@hearstdc.com.