Seattle Post-Intelligencer: AP – U.S. Headlines

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: AP – U.S. Headlines: “WASHINGTON — Rep. Jim McDermott, who drew headlines across the globe last year for criticizing President Bush while in Baghdad, is enmeshed in a new controversy over remarks he made about the capture of Saddam Hussein. In an interview Monday with Seattle’s KIRO-AM Radio, McDermott said the U.S. military could have found the former Iraqi dictator “a long time ago if they wanted.”

Asked by host Dave Ross if he thought the weekend capture was timed to help Bush, McDermott chuckled and said, “Yeah, oh yeah.”

McDermott went on to say, “There’s too much by happenstance for it to be just a coincidental thing.”

Asked again if he meant to imply the Bush administration timed the capture for political reasons, McDermott said: “I don’t know that it was definitely planned on this weekend, but I know they’ve been in contact with people all along who knew basically where he was. It was just a matter of time till they’d find him.

“It’s funny,” McDermott added, “when they’re having all this trouble, suddenly they have to roll out something.”

State Republicans immediately condemned McDermott’s remarks, saying the Seattle Democrat again was engaging in “crazy talk” about the Iraq war.

“Once again McDermott has embarrassed this state with his irresponsible ranting,” GOP state Chairman Chris Vance said in a news release. “Calling on him to apologize is useless, but I call on other Democrats to let the public know if they agree with McDermott.”

Last year, Vance and other Republicans labeled McDermott “Baghdad Jim,” for comments he made, during a trip to Baghdad, that President Bush “would mislead the American people” but that Saddam could be trusted.

On Monday, criticism of McDermott was bipartisan.

“With all due respect to my colleague, that is a fantasy,” Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., told Ross after McDermott’s comments were aired. “That just is not right. … It’s one thing to criticize this administration for having done this war. I mean, that’s a fair question. But to criticize them on the capture of Saddam, when it’s such a big thing to our troops, is just ridiculous.”

McDermott, in a Monday telephone interview with The Associated Press, called the timing of Saddam’s capture suspicious, but said he did not mean it had been intentionally delayed.

“Everything was going wrong, and they got a real Christmas gift, if you will, in that the troops did a magnificent job and found” Saddam, McDermott said.

Asked again if he thought Bush timed the capture for political benefit, McDermott said, “All I know is people have got to be skeptical about what is happening here, because these (American) kids are still dying, and as long as that is happening we’re in a world of hurt.”

His earlier statements referred to the 12-hour gap between the time Bush learned of the successful raid and the announcement by the military the following day, McDermott said. The delay kept the news about Saddam out of the Sunday papers.

“It sounded like he knew about it on Saturday, but didn’t release it until Sunday. That had, apparently, to do with news cycles. That’s all I was talking about,” he said.”


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