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Doolittle’s remarks about war draw mixed reactions

Remarks from the local congressional representative calling the Iraq War a “quagmire” received mix reactions Friday in Nevada County, where support for troops remains high even as some call for their return home.

On Thursday, Rep. John Doolittle, R-Rocklin, said U.S. troops should be pulled back from the “front lines” and restricted to training and advising Iraqi forces.

Doolittle’s comments, made during a town hall meeting in Rocklin, come as other prominent Republicans have distanced themselves from President George W. Bush’s pleas for patience with the war effort.



They also show a continuing shift in Doolittle’s position on the American involvement in Iraq. In April, he told The Union that “we need to get ourselves off the front line.” In June, he called for Iraqi troops to be in control of the conflict by year’s end, but expressed hope for some stability in the ravaged nation.

Just a day before Doolittle’s latest comments, county residents cheered, clapped and waved little flags during the Independence Day parade in Grass Valley, featuring the families of service men and women carrying photos of their loved ones, veterans carrying banners, and National Guard reservists in a camouflage vehicle.




If American troops come home from Iraq before Iraqi forces can defend their nation, “then (terrorists) win and we loose,” Nevada County Republican Central Committee member Tony Gilchrease said.

“I’d like to see (the troops) get out of there tomorrow, but I’d like to win,” Gilchrease said. “If we don’t fight them there, we’ll be fighting them here.”

Others remained skeptical of Doolittle, who had campaigned with President Bush and staunchly supported the war before offering his first reservations on the matter.

“Congressman Doolittle is nothing more than a ‘yes man’ who has been swayed by the wave of public sentiment,” said Lorraine Reich of the Nevada County Peace Center.

“It is appalling that this district has such a lack of leadership in its congressional representative,” said Todd Stenhouse, spokesman for Charles Brown, the Democratic congressional candidate from Roseville who beat the incumbent in Nevada County in the November general election

Stenhouse called Doolittle’s change of opinion “an act of political desperation.”

“We’ve got to get off the front lines as soon as possible,” Doolittle said at a meeting with constituents at Rocklin City Hall. “And in my mind, that means something like the end of the year. We just can’t continue to tolerate these kinds of losses.”

He called the war a “quagmire,” and said a majority of his Republican colleagues had become skeptical of the administration’s Iraq policies. “And that’s a big change,” Doolittle said.

Cracks in Bush’s support

Support among Republican senators is considered crucial to Bush’s Iraq policy, The Associated Press reported. Democrats hold a narrow 51-49 majority and routinely fall shy of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and advance most anti-war legislation.

But new cracks in Bush’s support base have begun to show. In the past two weeks, three Republicans – Sens. Richard Lugar of Indiana, George Voinovich of Ohio and Pete Domenici of New Mexico – have announced they can no longer support Bush’s Iraq war strategy and have called on the president to start reducing the military’s role there.

Their announcements took many by surprise because most Republicans have said they are willing to hold out until September to see if Bush’s troop buildup is working.

“I have carefully studied the Iraq situation and believe we cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress to move its country forward,” Domenici told reporters from New Mexico this week. Instead, Domenici embraced a bipartisan bill by Colorado Democrat Ken Salazar that would put U.S. troops on track to leave by the end of March 2008.

A spokesman for the White House, Tony Fratto, said that position amounts to the same approach sought by the Democrats, “which is, in fact, a precipitous withdrawal.”

“We think that’s absolutely the wrong way to go,” Fratto told the AP Friday. “It would be dangerous.”

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Staff Writers Soumitro Sen, Greg Moberly and Jill Bauerle, City Editor Trina Kleist and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact The Union at tkleist@theunion.com or call 477-4230.


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