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Welch’s challenge to the GOP

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In his radio address to the nation this past Saturday, Vermont Sen. Peter Welch laid out the Democrats response in this election year on the war in Iraq: In short, President Bush, his administration and this Republican Congress have been irresponsible and accountability can only be restored by electing a Democratic House and/or Senate in November.

Unless we have a change in power in Congress in 2006, Welch said at the Addison Independent offices last Friday afternoon, none of the big questions facing the nation really matter because the Republican-led Congress has not exercised its role to oversee the executive branch and has instead rubber-stamped most of what the White House has dished out — including cover-ups and gross mismanagement of the war effort.

Welch, who was chosen to deliver the response to the president’s weekly radio address, couldn’t be more on target.

What Americans have seen for much of the past six years under Bush and this Republican-led Congress has been an incredibly irresponsible approach to governance where substantive discussion on the issues has been replaced by political calculations. Bush and company have preferred staged theater to real accomplishments and falsified reports to sway a far-too gullible public.

Consider the war effort. Since Bush declared three years ago the mission in Iraq was “accomplished� aboard the U.S.S. Lincoln (grand theater staged for a egocentric nation), nearly 2,500 American soldiers have died fighting in Iraq and another 18,000 have been wounded. And since Vice-President Dick Cheney declared a year ago that the insurgency was “in its last throes,� there have been an increasing number of deadly attacks throughout Iraq as stability has continually eroded.

Consider also the theater surrounding the national deficit. Since Bush took over the fiscal fortunes of the country have deteriorated faster and further than at any time in the nation’s history, yet Bush continues to push tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans as the nation’s infrastructure deteriorates, federal aid to states declines, the nation’s natural resources are being sold and plundered for pennies on the dollar, and the gap between the rich and poor grows wider and wider. Despite the stark evidence to the contrary, the Republican rhetoric is that deficits don’t matter and the economy is stronger than ever.

Consider, too, that the cost of the Iraqi war is not included in the budget, at a request of the president, so a true picture of the nation’s fiscal health has been purposely clouded in an effort to keep the headlines from shocking the public.

Welch noted Saturday that Bush wants Americans to “stay the course,� but counters that Bush’s course is only more of the same with no exit strategy in a country gradually sliding into civil war.

Rather, Welch said Saturday, “Americans have had enough and it’s long past time to change course.�

That change, Welch said, is to ensure that 2006 is “a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty. We must establish clear benchmarks for the Iraqis to take care of their own country and defend themselves, so that we can transition our troops out and move to fight a smarter war on terrorism — including doing a better job of securing our ports and our borders.�

It’s ironic, Welch told the Independent, that Bush’s plan is to promote nation-building in Iraq — via occupation, the establishment of military bases, and a continued military presence there — when he and conservatives throughout the country ridiculed Al Gore in the 2000 campaign for humani­tarian campaigns in foreign countries they wrongly cast as nation-building.

We need to defend our national security, Welch said, but not try to dictate the politics of another country, and that’s what Bush is trying to do in Iraq.

“Families in Vermont and all over America are frustrated and rightly so,� Welch said in his address. “At a time when all the Bush administration offers us is an open-ended commitment in Iraq, with no real strategy to meet America’s goals, the last thing we need in Washington is another Bush Republican who simply rubber stamps this administration’s misguided policies on Iraq. It’s time for accountability, credibility and competence when it comes to Iraq.�

How Welch’s Republican opponents Martha Rainville and Mark Shepard — and other Republicans around the nation in their respective races — answer those charges will play a significant part in the outcome of this November’s election.

Angelo S. Lynn

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