January 28, 2003
Making a case
Lawmakers: Bush needs to sell country on need for invasion
By DORI MEINERT
of Copley News Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. - When President Bush delivers his State of the Union address tonight, central Illinois lawmakers say he needs to make a clear, strong case against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
"I think my district is no different than the country; the district is split," said U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria.
"There is a lot of confusion, and I think there is not a very good understanding of why we need to invade Iraq," LaHood said. "I think the president needs to
continue to sell the American people on the need to invade if he feels that's the direction that he's going to go."
Recent polls show support for Bush's handling of the Iraq situation and the economy is slipping.
"There isn't the kind of support that perhaps there was to invade Afghanistan after 9-11 and Desert Storm after Kuwait," LaHood said. "So I think the president has to be very persuasive. I think he will take part of the State of the Union to do that."
LaHood said he hopes and expects Bush to push his plans for boosting the economy.
"He's got to talk about how he feels that his policies are going to jump-start the economy and give hope to people who are looking for a better job, or hope to people who looking for a job," LaHood said.
The Illinois congressional delegation split largely along party lines last fall when Congress voted to authorize President Bush to wage war on Iraq. Republicans voted in support, with most Democrats against. Those
contacted Monday said they haven't changed their positions.
U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Rock Island, a former Marine, said Bush's speech "needs to be more than rhetoric. It needs to be information. He needs to convey some credible reasons that we need to start hostilities."
Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, said he and his constituents trust President Bush to conduct foreign policy responsibly.
"But I think the president needs to lay out a case that is more fact-filled and without disclosing confidential information that creates a greater public understanding of what the situation actually is," Johnson said.
Rep. John Shimkus, R-Carbondale, who also represents part of Springfield, said the president "needs to inject some moral authority into the Iraqi debate . . . and reinforce to the American people why continuing pressure on Saddam Hussein is so important."
Traveling through his southern Illinois district last week, he said, "I heard more support for the president than opposition."
But he acknowledged there is a high level of anxiety about the prospect of the nation going to war.
"I don't think it diminishes the cause. It's OK to be anxious. It's important not to think that you're going to war and everything's going to be great," said Shimkus, a West Point graduate.