Sen. Clinton knocks occupation

Sen. Hillary Clinton criticized the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq at a discussion with journalist Marvin Kalb Tuesday afternoon.

At the most recent installment of the GW-sponsored “Kalb Report,” a series of discussions featuring prominent politicians and journalists, Clinton (D-N.Y.) said President Bush has failed to effectively answer questions about the conflict with Iraq and the war against terror.

“There’s a tendency on the part of this administration to be quite unwilling to recognize the usual norms in dealing with the democratic process … and sharing the information that appropriately should be shared,” Clinton said.

The event was part of the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention at the J.W. Marriott in downtown D.C. About 400 editors and publishers attended the 90-minute discussion.

The event was originally supposed to feature Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who canceled his appearance after his wife suffered a stroke last week.

Clinton’s criticisms came several days after Washington Post columnist Bob Woodward, whose new book chronicles Bush’s handling of the Iraq war, told CBS’s”60 Minutes” that the president failed to inform Congress about $700 million that was used to fund U.S military operations in the Middle East. While the Bush administration says the money came from properly appropriated funds, Clinton said she doubts it did.

“I think it’s part of a disturbing pattern that’s raising a lot of questions for people,” Clinton said. “In a democracy where you are supposed to have transparency and accountability, we were not even informed.”

“There is an unwillingness of the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate to ask embarrassing or difficult questions,” she added.

She also said the Bush administration has consistently left Congress, the American public and media in the dark about other issues.

“I know it’s difficult for a lot of the editors and the publishers to get to the bottom of the story because basically this administration gets away with something that no other (administration) that I’m aware of could, which is saying ‘We’re not going to tell you. Goodbye. Go away,’ and people do,” she said.

Although Clinton was critical of Bush’s foreign policy, she voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq in October 2002 and approved government funding for military action in March 2003.

“I don’t regret the vote; I regret the way the president used the authority,” she said Tuesday.

The former First Lady also said she is suspicious of Bush’s promise to transfer sovereignty to Iraq on June 30. Efforts to form a government in Iraq have been impeded by ethnic strife and guerilla attacks.

“You will not find anyone in the administration who will tell you, or who will know who will be responsible (for Iraq) past June 30,” Clinton said. “We’ve sent a message of confusion and uncertain leadership when we should have been (illustrating) the strength and stability that the American presence can bring.”

Clinton, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, elaborated on her dissatisfaction with Bush’s approach to foreign policy in Afghanistan and how he has dealt with Osama bin Laden.

She also said the country should not enter into negotiations with bin Laden, who said last week in an audio recording that he would proclaim a truce with some European countries if they stopped supporting the United States.

“It’s insulting that Osama bin Laden is attempting to make peace negotiations with European countries,” she said.

The New York senator said she hopes “for the good of the country” that her colleague, John Kerry, will defeat Bush in the 2004 presidential election.

“He will win,” she said. “I think his life story, personal story and public experience will give him a leg up on the debate over security with the president.”

Clinton spent time debunking rumors that she would be Kerry’s running mate. She also said that if Kerry becomes the country’s president and runs for re-election four years from now, she would not challenge him.

“I am not a choice. I have made it absolutely clear that I am not interested in running for vice president,” she said. “I am committed to electing Senator Kerry in 2004 and then again in 2008.”

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