Lawmakers assess Bush's speech
(CNN) -- Reactions Monday to President Bush's speech to the nation on Iraq varied among lawmakers -- with some Republicans calling it realistic and one Democratic critic "an admission of a gross miscalculation."
In his speech Sunday night, Bush said he will ask Congress to approve an additional $87 billion to continue military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also said he will ask more nations to help pay the cost.
"This will take time and require sacrifice," Bush said. "Yet we will do whatever is necessary -- we will spend whatever is necessary -- to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom and to make our own nation more secure." (Full story)
U.S. Rep. David Obey, D-Wisconsin, said the Bush administration underestimated the costs and challenges of occupation before launching the war.
"The president's speech was an admission of gross miscalculation," said Obey, the ranking minority member of the House Appropriations Committee who has called for the resignations of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz over the administration's Iraq policy.
"They're going to require a whole lot more money than he asked for last night," Obey said." The Army is stretched incredibly thin. We don't have the personnel to respond if we had other problems in the world."
Bush's request for $87 billion for Iraq efforts is just "the first down payment," he said. "We're going to see the rest of them on an installment plan."
But U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, said his first reaction to the speech was "that this is realism."
"We knew that it was going to be a lot of money, and it was going to take a lot of time, but this was the first strong message that the president put out like that, and I think he had to do it," Shelby said. "He had no choice.
"We all have the concerns that we need to spend more and more money at home helping our own people."
But he said terrorists in Iraq pose a threat to U.S. troops and the effort to pacify the country is part of the war on terrorism.
"We've got to finish the job. Otherwise, the damage that they did two years ago" in the September 11 attacks will have been just the beginning, Shelby said.
Bush's request is based on assumptions that the cost of military operations in Iraq alone will exceed $4 billion a month for at least the next year, according to a congressional source.
Billions more will be used for the reconstruction effort. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, speaking Monday on NBC's "Today" show, said that the request includes about $20 billion for reconstruction in Iraq.
U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, said Congress has no choice but to appropriate the money.
"The question is, do we dare risk failure in this war on terrorism? There isn't anything more threatening to American citizens than the terrorists, and it's going to take what it takes, whatever that number is," Kyl said. "Defeat is not an option here. Pulling out is not an option."
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, complained Bush's speech did not go "far enough to really chart out a course over the next several years. ... We have real questions about the size of our forces. ... Those questions remain."
The speech, he said, "indicates that the president at least is trying to reconcile and draw back and backtrack, if you will. To try to find some way to deal with Iraq."
In detailing his plan for the continuing war in Iraq, Bush said, "Our strategy in Iraq has three objectives -- destroying terrorists, enlisting the support of other nations for a free Iraq and helping Iraqis assume responsibility for their own defense and their own future."
The Bush administration has asked the United Nations to help it establish a new Iraqi government and to authorize a U.S.-led multinational force for Iraq in hopes that it will prompt other countries to contribute troops to stabilize the country.
U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had a favorable reaction to the speech. Biden said Bush's address had the "right emphasis" in calling for more international involvement in post-war Iraq.
"[Bush] finally rejected the advice of the neoconservatives -- [Vice President Dick]Cheney and Rumsfeld and others -- and he's going to the United Nations, which was inevitable," Biden said. "I wish we had done it earlier, but I give him credit for doing it now."
In his speech, Bush said the United States will seek additional international support to rebuild Iraq and will restore self-rule there.
He said over the next two months U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will meet with representatives of many nations to discuss their financial contributions to the reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq.
But U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, said he is not convinced.
"It's not enough to go to the United Nations with a resolution," Kennedy said. "We must go with the right resolution, and it's not clear that this administration is ready to swallow its pride and do that. Words don't matter. We need deeds."
Kennedy said that he "had hoped to hear acknowledgment from the president of our failures in Iraq, the war on terrorism and the administration's concrete plans for solving them with our allies and through the United Nations."
U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, a 2004 White House hopeful who opposed the war, said the $87 billion is "more than the federal government will spend on education this year ... twice as much as the federal government will spend on our roads, bridges, highways and public transit systems."
"The president is clearly making a judgment that it is more important for us to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan than it is to deal with the very serious problems that we have in the United States."