Democrat Senators Criticize Bush's 'Victory in Iraq' Speech

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) responded to President Bush's "strategy for victory in Iraq" speech on Wednesday, basically accusing the president of missing the point and mischaracterizing the argument.

The president wasn't candid; he failed to articulate his plan for victory; he failed to offer details, Sen. Reed complained.

"I was disappointed," he said. "The president relied too much upon rhetoric, upon a laundry list of tasks accomplished, but not a coherent view of where we are realistically and where we must go to succeed. It was more generalities than specifics," Reed said.

He criticized the president for failing to answer key questions, including, "How do we know if progress is being made there? How do we measure success? How much longer should America expect to be in Iraq?"

Both Reed and Kerry emphasized that all Americans back the U.S. troops fighting in Iraq.

"They are committed to this mission, they believe in this mission, and we -- all of us -- believe in our troops," Kerry said.

Kerry also criticized Bush for using a military audience as a "backdrop" for his speech. "It reminds you of an aircraft carrier and 'Mission Accomplished,'" Kerry said, noting that while he (Kerry) can't summon the Naval Academy as a backdrop -- he can "summon the truth."

Kerry accused President Bush of mischaracterizing "what this real debate is about -- and what it is not about."

The debate is not about "an artificial date for withdrawal," Kerry said. For Democrats, it's about "an estimated timetable for success," he said.

No one has ever suggested that we should "run in the face of car bombers or assassins," Kerry said, referring to a line in Bush's speech. "No one is talking about running in face of a challenge; we're talking about how to win, how to succeed, how to best achieve our goals. That's the choice here," Kerry said.

Kerry said President Bush on Wednesday once again failed to acknowledge "the fundamental reality of the insurgency," which will not be defeated by guns, but rather by "political resolution."

Kerry said "every one of us" supports the elections that are about to take place in Iraq in mid-December. And he said the success of those elections will allow for the drawdown of U.S. troops -- a conclusion the Bush administration has arrived at belatedly, he said.

Kerry specifically criticized the president for refusing to acknowledge that U.S. troops on the ground are feeding the insurgency in Iraq.

Kerry said he doesn't doubt that Bush is "standing up and fighting, in his view, for what is best for our country. But we have differences of opinion about what the reality is on the ground and how we get there."

Kerry said he thinks he's been correct "every step of the way," and that the country has paid a price for the administration's mistakes: "Step after step they have made choices that are wrong for our troops."

He said he feels "completely comfortable" that what he and other Democrats are fighting for is the "safety of our troops and the success of their mission and the security of the United States of America."

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