(Host) Democratic congressional candidate Peter Welch is giving his party’s response to President Bush’s Saturday weekly radio address.
Welch focused his remarks on the war in Iraq. He said it’s time for the Iraqis to defend the country on their own.
Republicans said it’s a sign of the Democrats’ desperation that they gave Welch the high-profile speech.
VPR’s John Dillon reports.
(Welch) Good morning, this is state senator Peter Welch from Vermont. The men and women of our armed forces fighting in Iraq are the finest in the world. But with no clear strategy, President Bush and his Republican Congress have failed so far and for too long.
(Dillon) Welch went before the microphones to record his party’s response to the President’s weekly radio address.
Welch said House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi called his office out of the blue on Thursday to ask him to give the speech.
He said the radio address serves to highlight the differences between himself and his main Republican challenger, former Vermont National Guard commander Martha Rainville.
(Welch) She supports the Bush Administration. She supports the Bush Agenda. It’s kind of hard at various times to figure out what that means because she’s not particularly clear. But clearly she’s committed to standing up for the president. She’s said the president has done “a lot of good things.”
(Dillon) But Republicans said the Democrats decision to have Welch give the speech shows that they’re deeply concerned about a close race for the U-S House.
Jim Barnett is the chairman of the state G-O-P.
(Barnett) I think Democrats are fearful that their candidate here is not as strong as they anticipated. They are looking for every way to get him additional attention and resources to raise his profile. They are very concerned because of the quality and leadership ability of the leading Republican candidate, Martha Rainville, that they are going to have a very difficult time keeping what should be an easy Democratic win.
(Dillon) And Rainville’s campaign distributed a statement that pointed to Welch’s lack of military experience. The statement said that as adjutant general Rainville visited Iraq and saw firsthand the progress being made there. Rainville charged that Welch has stood for quote political expediency on the war, while she has challenged the Pentagon and supported the troops.
But Welch said Rainville’s support for the war showed her lack of good judgment.
(Welch) Her judgment in supporting president Bush and his war policy, linking Iraq to 911 was flawed. There are judgment calls that have to be made here. And the president and the Bush Congress and apparently Mrs. Rainville in her support of those policies is clearly wrong.
(Dillon) Welch said his speech was written jointly by his campaign and the national Democrats.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.