Democratic Presidential Candidates Call For New Leadership On Anniversary Of Bush's Speech

Tuesday, May 1st 2007, 5:36 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Democratic presidential candidates made a point of reminding voters that Tuesday was the fourth anniversary of President Bush's speech declaring an end to major combat in Iraq.

``One of the most shameful episodes in American history,'' Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign Web site read in bold type below a photo of Bush standing on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in front of a sign that read ``Mission Accomplished.''

``Never before has a president pulled a political stunt when so many American lives were and remain in harm's way,'' the New York senator and former first lady said in a statement. She said the war ``will stand as one of the darkest blots on leadership we've ever had in our nation's history.''

Clinton and her rivals for the party's presidential nomination seized on the image to promote new leadership in Iraq.

All the Democratic candidates say the war must end and say they would redeploy troops out of Iraq if they were in the White House, while all the leading Republican candidates are backing Bush's troop increase to try to stabilize the country.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president was aware of the anniversary, although he didn't mention it during a meeting in Florida with military commanders. She said the president has since acknowledged mistakes in Iraq, but Tuesday was a day to thank the commanders for the successes and talk about his new strategy for the war.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama said the anniversary is a day to grieve for the fallen soldiers and urge the president to bring troops home. Delaware Sen. Joe Biden said the speech is one of several reasons why the president has lost all credibility. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said ``photo ops'' like the one four years ago couldn't hide Bush's disastrous mismanagement of the war.

Said Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd: ``The time has come for clarity and a new mission: To end the war in Iraq, to bring our troops home, and to begin restoring America's standing in the world.''

While the Democratic presidential candidates were united for the day against Bush, Iraq has not been an easy issue for them. They have been pitted against each other over whether Congress should have ever approved the start of the war and over what to do now to stop his troop increase.

The Democratic-controlled Congress sent Bush legislation Tuesday that calls for troops to begin leaving Iraq by Oct. 1, but he quickly vetoed it.

Video posted on YouTube showed Biden telling a voter in South Carolina that Congress should ``shove it down his throat.'' He issued a statement Tuesday calling for a 90-minute presidential candidate debate focused solely on Iraq.

Edwards and Dodd say Congress should cut funding for the war. But Obama and Clinton have not committed to pulling funding without a plan to draw down forces.

Edwards, Biden, Dodd and Clinton voted to authorize the war. All but Clinton have said they regret that vote _ she has refused to say it was mistake. And Obama takes every opportunity to remind voters that he was opposed to the war from the start.

How the Democratic presidential candidates say they would handle Iraq if they were commander in chief:

Delaware Sen. Joe Biden:

Withdraw almost all U.S. forces by the end of 2007. Maintain a residual force of about 20,000 troops for counterterrorism efforts, protection from foreign threats and training for Iraqi security forces. Divide Iraq along autonomous ethnic lines, with a central Iraqi government only for border security, foreign policy and to divide fairly the nation's oil resources. Gain cooperation from Sunni Arabs by guaranteeing them 20 percent of oil revenues. Convene with the United Nations a regional security conference to pledge support for the power-sharing agreement. Increase reconstruction assistance and establish a jobs program to keep youth away from crime.

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton:

Begin redeploying troops out of Iraq within 90 days. Supports a goal of all removing all combat troops except those needed for residual missions by March 2008. Residual forces would be charged with training and equipping Iraqi security forces, counterterrorism activities, protecting U.S. personnel and facilities, and protecting the Kurds in northern Iraq. Require the Iraqi government to meet benchmarks such as passage of oil law and reducing sectarian influence in security forces or cut off U.S. funding for security forces and reconstruction.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd:

Immediately redeploy combat troops out of Baghdad and other urban areas to other less populated areas; to bases in Kuwait and Qatar; and to Afghanistan. Remaining troops would have a narrow mission of training and equipping Iraqi security forces, counterterrorism activities and protecting U.S. personnel and facilities.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards

Immediately withdraw 40,000 to 50,000 troops, along with any sent over as part of President Bush's plan in January to add 30,000 troops eventually. Bring home all combat troops within 12-18 months. Leave a residual force to help protect the U.S. Embassy and Americans offering humanitarian relief, and keep a force in the region to prevent civil war from spilling over into other countries, becoming a genocide or spreading terrorism.

Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich

Close all U.S. military bases in Iraq and withdraw the troops, while simultaneously ordering the return of all U.S. contractors and turning over their work to the Iraqi government. Convene a regional conference to develop a security and stabilization force made up of troops from other nations that would replace U.S. troops, a process he says will take at least three months. Fund the peacekeeping mission, a national reconciliation and reparations to the Iraqi people.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama

Introduced legislation two months ago that would have begun bringing home troops by Tuesday, the fourth anniversary of Bush's speech declaring an end to major combat operations in Iraq. All combat troops would be deployed out of Iraq by March 31, 2008. Allow for a temporary suspension of the redeployment if the Iraqis meet specific security, political and economic benchmarks. Leave a residual force of a size to be determined to help train Iraqi troops, participate in counterterror operations, protect U.S. personnel and maintain a presence at the Defense Department's attache office. Intensify training of Iraqi security forces. Recommend the appointment of a special envoy to oversee international diplomatic efforts to end the civil war in Iraq.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson

Withdraw troops by the end of 2007, including residual forces, unless Bush can show the Iraqi government is meeting established benchmarks. Lead the way on providing aid for reconstruction and encouraging national reconciliation. Convene a regional conference.