Peoria Journal Star

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Illinois lawmakers split down party lines on effectiveness of president's speech

By Dori Meinert
OF Copley News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Illinois Democrats criticized President Bush for not articulating a clear path to success in Iraq in his nationally televised speech Tuesday night, while Republicans said he successfully reassured the public.

"Setting a timetable for withdrawal is not prudent at this time, but I cannot accept the administration's failure to establish a clear plan to end the conflict and return our troops home," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill, said "the American people want and deserve better answers about where we go from here in Iraq."

"With operations costing nearly $5 billion per month, a dramatic decline in recruitment in our armed forces, and ever-extending tours of duty for our men and women in uniform, the president needs to realize that the current approach is not working in Iraq," Obama said.

Rep. Lane Evans, D-Rock Island, said, "Like many others, I am concerned that our planning and our plans don't square with reality. On one hand, Vice President Cheney said the insurgency was in its 'last throes.' He was later contradicted by the top commander in Iraq who said it could last for years."

"We need to get things right. But the administration still has a long way to go in showing it has a plan that will achieve our goals," Evans said.

Republican Rep. Ray LaHood, who represents Peoria, said the speech was aimed at reassuring the public.

"Obviously, they've been looking at the poll numbers and they realize there is a concern in the country. I think the president wanted to reassure the American people that we're not going to cut and run. We're in it for the long haul, that a number of good things have already happened. But a number of good things are going to happen including the Constitution, including another election.

"Progress is being made, but there's still a long haul before we accomplish everything that we want to get done there," said LaHood, who said he hasn't seen any reduction of support for the war in central Illinois.

Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Morris, who represents LaSalle County and parts of Woodford and McLean, wasn't available.