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Democratic Sen. Webb rebukes Bush's handling of Iraq

WASHINGTON—In a stinging Democratic Party response to President Bush's State of the Union address, freshman Sen. James Webb of Virginia said Bush "took us into this war recklessly" and "we are now as a nation held hostage to the predictable and predicted disarray that has followed."

Webb, whose Marine son is serving in Iraq, said Bush has lost the support of the majority of the country and the military.

Webb called for "not one step back from the war against international terrorism, not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos, but an immediate shift toward strong, regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq."

The Democratic-led Senate and House of Representatives plan to pass nonbinding resolutions opposing the president's troop buildup, but as of now they aren't threatening to withhold funding for it.

Before Webb was a Vietnam War hero, or President Reagan's Navy secretary, or a best-selling author, or the Republican-turned-Democrat who beat Sen. George Allen last year to give Democrats the last seat they needed to take control of the Senate, he was a boxer at the U.S. Naval Academy.

On Tuesday night, he delivered his harshest blows against the war in Iraq.

But he also jabbed at other openings, saying that now that Democrats control Congress for the first time in Bush's presidency, they'll hold him to deliver on promises to improve public education, health care, the plight of Hurricane Katrina survivors and economic conditions for the working class.

Invoking the legacies of two past Republican presidents—Theodore Roosevelt for taking on corporate robber barons and Dwight D. Eisenhower for ending the Korean War—Webb challenged Bush to follow their examples.

"If he does, we will join him," he said. "If he does not, we will be showing him the way."

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(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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