Casey blasts Bush's war course

By Borys Krawczeniuk, The Times-Tribune

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. said Friday he voted for a failed Senate resolution that would have set a deadline for removing U.S. troops from Iraq because of how President Bush is conducting the war.

"You're either for stay the course, allow the president to do virtually whatever he wants, no questioning, no oversight or you're in favor of change of some kind," Mr. Casey said. "It's very supportive of the troops who are there, but it says that we should transform the mission."

The resolution, which failed 50-48, would have removed most troops by March 31, 2008, and narrowed the U.S. mission in Iraq to protecting the remaining troops, counterterrorism and training Iraqi troops to secure their country.

"The idea that we're just going to stay the course and keep American troops in the middle of a civil war is just outrageous," Mr. Casey said. "If you're not for this change ... then you're for 'Stay the course.'"

The resolution would have been binding, but the House has not approved its own version, and it is unlikely Mr. Bush would have signed it anyway. The House last month voted in favor of a nonbinding resolution condemning Mr. Bush's plan to send another 21,500 troops to Iraq.

Mr. Casey also denounced early 2005 contacts between a Justice Department aide and top White House adviser Karl Rove, who had inquired through White House lawyers about removing U.S. attorneys. The aide consulted then-attorney general nominee Alberto R. Gonzales, who favored the idea, according to the aide's e-mail to the White House, the New York Times reported Thursday. Mr. Gonzales says he can't recall such contacts.

Mr. Rove was Mr. Bush's top political adviser. Seven U.S. attorneys were fired in December.

"No attorney general should ever speak to a campaign consultant or campaign manager about the appointment or the firing of United States attorneys. It's totally inappropriate ... It's an abuse of the process," Mr. Casey said.

He stopped short of calling for Mr. Gonzales to resign as other senators have.

"I'd think I'd reserve judgment on that, but based upon this, I don't see how he can be very effective," Mr. Casey said.

Mr. Casey also spoke about his support for adding federal funding to the state Children's Health Insurance Program. He said Mr.Bush's budget would leave 1.4 million children uninsured by 2012.

The Scranton Democrat spoke by telephone after a visit to the Tobyhanna Army Depot, which he visited for the first time since being elected. He was on his way to New York City where he was set to speak at the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of New York on Friday night.

He is the featured speaker tonight for the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Lackawanna County.