White House fires back at McCain’s ‘easy’ cri­tique on Iraq

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Stephen Di­nan

The White House on Aug. 23 fought back against Sen. John McCain’s as­ser­tion that the ad­min­is­tra­tionwrong­lyledthen­ation­in­to­think­ing the Iraq war­wouldbe easy, even as a new poll sug­gests that for the first timesince it be­gana­ma­jor­i­tyof Amer­i­cans don’t think the war is part of the fight against ter­ror­ism.

“It is dif­fi­cult, and the pres­i­dent has­said it is goingtobe dif­fi­cult from the be­gin­ning,” said White House spokes­woman Dana Perino, who called it “puz­zling to me” that Mr. McCain’s com­ments were gain­ing at­ten­tion be­cause, she said, he had made sim­i­lar crit­i­cisms be­fore.

Mr. McCain, who has been a staunch de­fender of the war, said while cam­paign­ing in Ohio for Sen. Mike DeWine that the pub­lic had been “led to be­lieve this could be some kind of day at the beach,” and list­edthe­claim­soft­opad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials that in­di­cated an eas­ier war.

“I think one of the big­gest mis­takeswe­made­wa­sun­der­es­ti­mat­ing the size of the task andthe sac­ri­fices that­would­berequired,”Mr.McCain said. “Stuff hap­pens, mis­sion ac­com­plished, last throes, a few dead­en­ders. I’m just more familiar with those state­ments than any­one else be­cause it grieves me so much that we had not told the Amer­i­can peo­ple how tough and dif­fi­cult this task would be.”

Though she said she hadn’t seen Mr. McCain’s com­ments di­rectly, Mrs. Perino rat­tled off three dif­fer­en­toc­ca­sion­swhenMr.Bush­saidthe fight wouldbe hard, in­clud­ing at the be­gin­ning of the war on March 19, 2003, again two months later even af­ter­he­he­had­stood­be­neatha“mis­sion most re­cently dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on Aug. 21.

De­spitechal­leng­inghis­com­ments, theWhiteHouse­was­care­ful­to­praise the sen­a­tor, in­di­cat­ing just how pow­er­ful a po­lit­i­cal fig­ure Mr.McCain is.

“He is a sen­a­tor who is not shy about­shar­inghisviews.That’so­neof there­a­son­sheis­suchau­niq­ue­fig­ure in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, and also one of the most pop­u­lar,” Mrs. Perino said.

AMcCain spokesman on Aug. 23 said the sen­a­tor was out of the coun­try trav­el­ing and didn’t have any­thing more to add.

Mr. McCain has be­come a yard­stick that Demo­cratic chal­lengers areusing­toat­tack­Repub­li­cans.That is nat­u­ral in Ari­zona, Mr. McCain’s home state, bu­tonAug.23Rep.Sher­rodBrown,theDemo­crat­icmem­ber ofCon­gress­who is run­ning­toun­seat Mr. DeWine, point­edly noted that Mr. DeWine did not agree with Mr. McCain.

“In­stead of echo­ing McCain’s re­marks, DeWine yes­ter­day again failed to crit­i­cize the ad­min­is­tra­tion’shan­dlin­gofthe­warorto call for an exit strat­egy,” Mr. Brown’s cam­paign said in a state­ment.

The Na­tional Repub­li­can Se­na­to­ri­alCom­mit­teetried­tosteerthe­con­ver­sa­tion back to the po­lit­i­cal cam­paign, point­ing out that Mr. McCain had strongly en­dorsed Mr. DeWine and said they share “ba­si­cally the same” vot­ing record, while Mr. Brown’svot­in­grecord is “dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent.”

Pres­i­dent Bush on Aug. 21 put Iraqsquarely at thetop of this year’s po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns, say­ing the two par­ties had pro­found dif­fer­ences in how they would han­dle the war.

Mr. Bush has ar­gued that Iraq is ama­jor­partofthe­waron ter­ror, but aCBS-NewYorkTime­spoll­re­leased on Aug. 23 found that 51 per­cent of Amer­i­cans now say the con­flict in Iraq is “sep­a­rate­fromthe­waron­ter­ror­ism,” a jump of 10 per­cent­age pointss­inceJune. Still, th­e­same poll foundMr.Bushal­soscored­hishigh­est marks in more than a year on his han­dlin­gofthe­waron ter­ror, with55 per­cent ap­prov­ing.

On vet to an­other: Vet­eran Richard Daniel­son, right, talks with Sen. John McCain af­ter the Ari­zona Repub­li­can made an ap­pear­ance at Cuya­hoga Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Parma, Ohio on Aug. 21 in sup­port of Sen. Mike DeWine's re-elec­tion cam­paign.

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