Posted by Tony from ? (188.8.131.52) on Thursday, October 03, 2002 at 10:54AM :
Gephardt Posture Irks Some in
by Susan Milligan
WASHINGTON - President Bush was in the Rose Garden, laying out the
details of a resolution against Iraq as Republicans stood loyally behind him.
But there was another face in this familiar picture yesterday: House
Democratic Leader Richard A. Gephardt, standing beside a president who
is aggressively raising money to block the Democrats from winning a
majority in the House.
The scene startled and even upset
some of Gephardt's fellow Democrats
who have watched their leader become
a leading hawk on Iraq and cast other
votes they did not expect.
''Members are saying it was kind of a
shock to see the display of unity on the
White House lawn, when so many of us
are still grappling'' with the question of
whether and how to use force against
Iraq, said Representative Jose
Serrano, Democrat of New York.
''I don't agree with the positions he
takes on things at all. But that's
something he has to resolve for
himself,'' said Representative Maurice
Hinchey, Democrat of New York. ''His
attitude is, `Everybody's on their own.'
There's no position on behalf of the
Democratic Party or Democratic
members of the Congress - which I
think is an odd way of addressing this,
Democratic consultant Peter Fenn said
Gephardt is in an odd position, as he
seeks to lead a Democratic caucus
with a wide array of political opinions,
while mulling a presidential run at the
''I think anytime you have members of Congress who are in leadership
roles and have their eyes, or at least one eye, on the presidency, you get a
little different posture,'' Fenn said.
One Democratic lawmaker reported there was ''a lot of anger'' among
fellow Democrats at the eagerness of Gephardt, of Missouri, to agree with
Bush on a use-of-force resolution when some members of his caucus
wanted to scale back the proposal. ''The word `sell-out' was used,'' the
lawmaker said, requesting anonymity.
Thomas A. Daschle, the Senate majority leader and Democrat of South
Dakota, was not present at the White House announcement yesterday.
While Gephardt was standing next to Bush, Daschle was talking to
members of his Senate Democratic caucus who were figuring out how to
present an alternative proposal.
Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington and a sharp
critic of the resolution, said Gephardt ''has not made [Iraq] a leadership
point. He basically abdicated the role.''
Gephardt's aides and the congressmen's defenders in the House note that
the Iraq matter is not a clearly partisan issue. Democratic Senators Joseph
I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Evan Bayh of Indiana have been strong
voices in favor of threatening Iraq with force. Several Republicans,
including Richard K. Armey of Texas, the House majority leader, have been
among the skeptics on the question of a preemptive strike.
Gephardt, said spokesman Erik Smith, did his best to bring the language
of the resolution closer to something a majority of House members would
support. ''Some people weren't interested in improving it. Some people
were against it,'' Smith said.
Representative Charles Rangel, Democrat of New York, said he opposes
the resolution but doesn't begrudge Gephardt's role in crafting it. ''The
leader worked hard with the president to find language that was even less
repugnant to the Democrats than the president's proposal,'' Rangel said.
But analysts and some Democrats in the House wonder whether Gephardt
isn't also looking ahead to his own political future. The minority leader has
brushed aside questions about whether he will run for president in 2004,
but he has made many trips to New Hampshire and other early primary
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