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Reactions: Iraq overshadows domestic issues

McCain says potential for war with Iraq overshadowed domestic issues.
McCain says potential for war with Iraq overshadowed domestic issues.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democrats were quick to criticize President Bush's economic plans after his State of the Union address Tuesday night, but most of the attention was focused on Iraq.

North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, a Democratic presidential contender, issued a statement before Bush had finished speaking saying "The president just doesn't get it."

"Giving tax cuts to the very wealthiest Americans should not take priority over the real economic, health care and security concerns facing regular people," Edwards' statement said.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said the speech was long on rhetoric and short on real solutions.

"Tonight, he outlined a tax plan that won't help working families or stimulate the economy; he shared with us a health plan that will privatize Medicare and hold seniors hostage to HMOs," McAuliffe said in a statement.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, told CNN the domestic issues in Bush's address have been overshadowed by the potential of war with Iraq.

"I think the key phrase that the president used, which I think may have gotten a lot of attention all over the world, including Baghdad, is America's course will not be determined by the decision of others," McCain said.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee said the president turned up the heat on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"The president didn't declare war tonight, and we all hope and pray that Saddam Hussein will leave, step down, turn his regime over, and clearly that's what we'd like to see, and that is one of the goals of the president," Frist said.

"But if not, as Secretary [of State Colin] Powell has said, as the president has said, time is running out."

Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, a top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN he was pleased Bush made the case that Saddam had violated the agreement he made at the end of the Gulf War to give up his weapons of mass destruction.

"If we do not enforce that, with the world along with us, then what we do is we make a mockery of the efficacy of the U.N. in the future," Biden said.

Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-California, said she believed Saddam must be removed from power, but said the United States needs the support of its allies.

"I know this administration believes in unilateralism and pre-emption, but it carries an enormous future danger for us," she said.

"If this nation goes it alone against an Arab nation, it will create a chasm and a divide the consequences of which we cannot begin to imagine."

She also wanted to know how Bush planned to rebuild Iraq.

"If he is going to go to war in a nation whose history shows it has never had a democracy -- it has rival tribes, it has minorities that often are antagonistic -- how we're going to create a government that's going to work and function and bring about a democracy after we've destroyed the infrastructure of the country?" Feinstein asked.

On other international issues, McCain said he was disappointed Bush did not call for tougher action against North Korea in response to its nuclear program.

"The administration has clearly decided to put the Korean crisis, and it is a severe crisis, on the back burner until the Iraq situation is taken care of," McCain said. "I think that is a mistake."

Both McCain and Frist said, however, they were pleased with Bush's proposed initiative to help fight the global AIDS crisis.

"The president has realized ... that AIDS is an epidemic. That we do have an obligation," McCain said.

"Very frankly, there are some of us, like me, that regret that we allowed the genocide to take place in Rwanda, that we have neglected Africa for a long period of time.

"So I was a little surprised at the emphasis, but I'm glad that he gave it to that degree of importance."

Frist said in the future Bush's AIDS plan could be the most important thing to come from the speech.

"What will probably be most remarkable is this president's unprecedented commitment to combating global HIV/AIDS -- a little tiny virus that when I was in medical school didn't exist," Frist said.

"1981 was the first time we figured out what this virus was that is wiping out a continent [and has] killed 23 million people."

He said the program will save "millions and millions and millions of people."

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