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          Front Page




Lawmakers Give Bush Talk Mixed Reviews

By Michael Coleman
Journal Washington Bureau
    WASHINGTON— New Mexico's three congressional Republicans said President Bush said exactly what he needed to say in his prime-time speech Tuesday on the war in Iraq.
    The two New Mexico Democrats said he didn't say enough.
    Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said the president's update on Iraq should help ease discomfort among Americans who increasingly show regret about the war in national polls.
    "It was time to give the American people a picture of why this is in our interest and why America can't cut and run," Domenici said.
    He said the president effectively described why this war matters at home as well as in the Middle East.
    "This is not just a war for their freedom, which is an important objective, it's also a war to minimize our exposure to terrorism," Domenici said.
    Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., described the speech as disappointing. He said it offered scant detail and erroneously tried to link the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. to the Iraqi insurgents Americans are now fighting daily.
    "I thought it was much more of a pep talk than it was an effort to objectively describe the problems and challenges we face," Bingaman said. "He portrayed the situation in very hopeful terms and left out any serious discussions of the problems that remain militarily."
    In a prepared statement later, Bingaman also said: " ... we have taken on the responsibility to assist the newly formed government to achieve stability, and we cannot walk away from that responsibility."
    Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., said the president did a good job of conveying the urgency of the mission. She said it was not Bush's job to lay out details of the military plan going forward, calling that the job of military leaders.
    "The benefits of success in Iraq are huge and the consequences of failure are profound," Wilson said. "We cannot afford to lose in Iraq or we will be facing the jihadists at home."
    She said the American military is helping to "drain the swamp" of terrorists and Iraqi insurgents.
    Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., said the president succinctly communicated his feelings about the current situation in Iraq.
    "We are there to fight terrorism— if we lose resolve, it's the only way we can lose," Pearce said.
    He also said the president needed to update his case for the war.
    "Occasionally, you need the top leader to come in and say exactly what his feelings are," Pearce said. "If he is having second thoughts, then America might begin to have second thoughts."
    Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said Americans were hoping for more specifics from Bush about how the administration plans to win the war and bring U.S. troops home.
    "This was a time for outlining a specific strategy for success," Udall said. "I'm very disappointed the president didn't do that. It was a rehash."
    Udall also said the president failed to demonstrate exactly how America is winning the war in Iraq.
    "Saying that we are making progress doesn't make it so," Udall said.