DES MOINES, Iowa – GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney assailed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday for visiting Syria’s president and accused Democrats in Washington of playing politics with Iraq.
Likewise, Republican rival Rudy Giuliani criticized Democrats for pushing a deadline for a military withdrawal from Iraq, saying the idea “lacks common sense.” And a third GOP candidate, Tommy Thompson, presented his own plan to create stability in Iraq – including letting the Iraqi government vote on whether U.S. troops should stay.
The candidates vying for the GOP nomination focused on a standoff between Democrats who control Congress and President Bush over a bill providing money for the Iraq war. Democrats want to include a date for a U.S. troop withdrawal in the bill, and Bush has threatened to veto any measure that includes a timetable.
At the same time, Democrats are urging Bush to engage more with Syria. The administration accuses Syria of backing terrorism and claims the nation is fueling Iraq’s violence by allowing Sunni insurgents to operate from its territory. President Bush denounced Pelosi’s visit.
Romney, taking on Pelosi, said of her trip to Syria, “It’s a very bad idea to be carrying out a separate and independent foreign policy from the president of the United States.”
“I just don’t know what got into her head, to be completely honest with you,” he said. “Her going to a state which is without question a sponsor of terror, and having her picture taken with (Bashar) Assad and being seen in a headscarf and so forth is sending the wrong signal to the people of Syria and to the people of the Middle East.”
Another potential presidential candidate, New York’s Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg, called the trip unwise, adding that three Republican congressmen who visited Syria over the weekend were in the wrong as well. “The State Department should be running the foreign policy of the country and doing negotiations,” he said.
Romney, campaigning in Iowa, also chastised Democratic Senate and House leaders in Washington regarding Iraq, saying: “It is not up to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to dictate to the commanders in the field or to the commander in chief.”
Giuliani, addressing Florida lawmakers in Tallahassee, criticized the idea of Congress setting a timetable for troop withdrawal because it would tip off terrorists. “Forget politics and forget all of this, does that make any sense?” he asked.
“Don’t give our enemies this tremendous advantage. This is what they want accomplished,” Giuliani said. “They are fighting us and killing us in Baghdad and Iraq because they want to drive us out.”
Meanwhile, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson said in Milwaukee that he wants to let the Iraqi government vote over whether U.S. troops should stay.
“If they vote yes, it will immediately give a degree of legitimacy for America being there,” he said. “And if they do vote no – they don’t want us there – we should get out.”