(CULVER, Ind., October 18th, 2004, 2:30 p.m.) -- Sen. Richard Lugar said he believed his critical comments about the Bush administration's handling of Iraqi reconstruction have been misused during the presidential campaign.
Democratic Sen. John Kerry and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards, have both cited Lugar's assessment of Iraq during the recent debates, but Lugar said Sunday that his words were being taken "out of context."
Lugar, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke about the war in Iraq during a visit to the Global Studies Institute on the campus of Culver Military Academy.
"I don't think Sen. Kerry's use of my name or John McCain or even Colin Powell will make any difference in the election," Lugar said.
Lugar, when talking last month about how only about $1 billion has been spent on Iraqi reconstruction out of the $18.4 billion appropriated by Congress, said, "This is the incompetence in the administration."
Lugar said Sunday he meant those comments and believed that President Bush agreed with the need to increase reconstruction spending to create jobs for Iraqi citizens.
"To pick up at various junctures these words of criticism and to extrapolate that somehow the sky is falling is invalid, and I think people recognize that," Lugar said. "It's why I don't think it makes a whole lot of difference. It does infuriate all of my friends, and they wish that somehow or other I could seize Senator Kerry and tell him, 'Don't do it."'
Kerry communications director Stephanie Cutter said Monday, "Senator Lugar said that the administration's handling of the Iraqi reconstruction has been incompetent. That is a very clear and very accurate statement of Bush's failure to plan for the war, and hard to see what has been taken out of context."
Lugar said that Iraq's ultimate version of democracy would likely bear little resemblance to the U.S. model. That could represent a significant challenge to U.S. foreign policy if Americans don't see democratic ideals such as women's suffrage or freedom of religion reflected in the Iraqi constitution.
"How far is the U.S. willing to deviate from its form of democracy?" Lugar asked. "The Muslim religion will be mentioned in the constitution."
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)