White House Hopefuls Battle Over Iraq War

It's getting personal.

While lawmakers flee the nation's capitol Friday for Memorial Day weekend, White House hopefuls are fighting their own war on Iraq with personal barbs and dueling press releases.

Congress approved the $120 billion spending bill Thursday that will fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. The House voted 280-142 to pass the measure, with the Senate quickly following by a 80-14 vote.

Candidates were quick to stake out their positions on the war Friday as President Bush signed the legislation into law at the Camp David presidential retreat.

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama, who voted against the measure, quickly shot back at Republican hopeful John McCain's comments criticizing his decision to oppose the legislation.

Obama said McCain's recent visit to Iraq shows the course of war isn't working.

"And if there ever was a reflection of that it's the fact that Senator McCain required a flack jacket, ten armored Humvees, two Apache attack helicopters, and 100 soldiers with rifles by his side to stroll through a market in Baghdad just a few weeks ago," Obama said in a statement.

An hour later, McCain fired back.

"While Senator Obama's two years in the U.S. Senate certainly entitle him to vote against funding our troops, my service and experience combined with conversations with military leaders on the ground in Iraq lead me to believe that we must give this new strategy a chance to succeed because the consequences of failure would be catastrophic to our nation's security," McCain said in a statement.

"By the way, Senator Obama, it's a 'flak' jacket, not a 'flack' jacket," the Arizona Republican added. Flak is a type of antiaircraft weapon, while flack is a term sometimes used to describe public relations representatives.

Obama went after McCain and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, saying they support a war that has cost thousands of lives and made the United States less safe.

Obama said he would not vote in favor of a "blank check" for the president to continue "down this same, disastrous path."

Another leading Democratic candidate, Sen. Hillary Clinton, voted against the supplemental bill on Thursday evening, her latest move to strongly register opposition to the war in Iraq.

The legislation did not include timetables or threats of withdrawal if benchmarks for political resolutions are not met by the Iraqi government. It did, however, condition reconstruction funding to political progress and included about $17 billion for domestic spending, including $6 billion for Hurricane Katrina repairs.

Clinton and Obama declared their support for the troops after voting against the measure to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September.

"I fully support our troops, and wish the president had followed the will of the people and signed the original bill we sent, which both funded the troops and set a new course of phased redeployment," Clinton said in a statement.

But Republican hopefuls took the two senators and potential opponents to task. Romney said not supporting the supplemental bill is a vote against the troops.

"Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama cast a vote that singularly defines their lack of leadership and serves as a glaring example of an unrealistic and inexperienced worldview on national security that is regrettably shared by too many of their fellow Capitol Hill Democrats," Romney said in a statement. "Their votes render them undependable in the eyes of the men and women of the United States military and the American people."

McCain said Clinton's and Obama's votes sends the wrong signal to Al Qaeda.

"I was very disappointed to see Senator Obama and Senator Clinton embrace the policy of surrender by voting against funds to support our brave men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan," McCain said in a statement. "This vote may win favor with MoveOn and liberal primary voters, but it's the equivalent of waving a white flag to Al Qaeda."

Former Democratic vice presidential candidate and 2008 White House hopeful John Edwards, who voted to authorize the war while a senator in 2003 but has since apologized for that decision, called for the war to end.

"The American people's call for a new course in Iraq was not answered today, but Congress still has the power to end this war. Our security and democracy alike demand it," Edwards said in a statement.

Among the other lawmakers running for president, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd voted against it, while Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, both Democrats, supported it. Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Tom Tancredo of Colorado voted in favor, while Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas opposed the funding measure. Republican Sen. Sam Brownback did not vote.

Biden also introduced legislation Friday to repeal the 2002 Iraq war authorization.

"I am introducing legislation which could truly end this war and get our troops home," Biden said in a statement.

Congress gets back to the debate over funding the wars for 2008 in September. The House plans to consider one measure that would end combat by July 2008 and another intended to repeal Bush's authority to wage war in Iraq.