(Host) Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jack McMullen says incumbent Democratic senator Patrick Leahy isn’t fighting the war on terrorism aggressively. McMullen said on Tuesday that Leahy’s votes against funding for the war in Iraq display a lack of enthusiasm to fight terrorists. Leahy’s campaign says the charges are outrageous.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) McMullen told reporters at a Statehouse news conference that Leahy’s positions on a number of issues regarding the war in Iraq are putting U.S. troops in greater danger and are undermining the morale of these troops. McMullen strongly criticized Leahy’s vote last year against an $87 billion appropriation for the war in Iraq.
McMullen says Leahy’s comments comparing the war in Iraq to the Vietnam War “encourages terrorists to persist and to do so ferociously.”
(McMullen) “His framework, the activities he chooses to focus on, all have the effect of emphasizing our weaknesses, our shortcomings without accentuating our strengths. From the votes to the calls for further investigations to the Vietnam scenario, most of the senators who are criticizing the war effort are looking for solutions – not just to criticize for criticism’s sake.”
(Kinzel) McMullen says the war on terrorism is the number one threat facing the country and he argues that Leahy is not the best person to fight this war:
(McMullen) “The question is, is he the right person for the next era, and the next era? His sympathies and instincts lie elsewhere. He’s a critic without solutions.”
(Kinzel) Leahy was not available to respond to McMullen’s charges. His chief of staff, Luke Albee, bristled at McMullen’s comments that Leahy has taken actions that have placed American troops in greater danger:
(Albee) “To equate criticism and dissent in a democracy to aiding our enemies is, to us, a really astonishing and irresponsible charge. We think someone needs to tell Mr. McMullen that he’s recently moved to the state that gave us Ralph Flanders and not Joe McCarthy.”
(Kinzel) Albee says Leahy has been a strong supporter of the war on terrorism and has opposed the president’s decision to go to war in Iraq:
(Albee) “He has not shied away from criticizing what he believes is an ill-fated strategy. The fact is that the administration was wrong about weapons of mass destruction, they were wrong when they said our troops would be treated as liberators, they were wrong when they said oil revenues would finance reconstruction. And the strength of our democracy comes when our leaders aren’t afraid to question the policies of our government.”
(Kinzel) Albee says Leahy believes that the war on terrorism has been weakened by the allocation of tens of billions of dollars to the war with Iraq.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.