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Hastert blasts Biden remarks

From Jonathan Karl
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, lashed out at Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Delaware, on Wednesday for making what he called "completely irresponsible" comments about U.S. armed forces operating in Afghanistan.

"The last thing our country needs right now is Senator Joe Biden calling our armed forces 'a high-tech bully,'" Hastert said in a written statement. "The American people want us to bring these terrorists to justice. They do not want comments that may bring comfort to our enemies."

Hastert was referring to Biden's remarks made Monday to the Council on Foreign Relations. Biden spokesman Norm Kerrs accused Hastert of taking Biden's words out of context.

"He clearly doesn't know the facts," Kerrs said. "If he understood what Senator Biden said in his speech, I'm sure he'd retract his statement."

Biden responded to Hastert's criticism on the Senate floor.

"I think this was a political drive-by shooting, accidental, I hope," he said.

In his remarks Monday, Biden said he hopes the U.S. air campaign against Afghanistan doesn't last too long because it "plays into every stereotypical criticism of us is we're this high-tech bully that thinks from the air we can do whatever we want to do, and it builds the case for those who want to make the case against us that all we're doing is indiscriminately bombing innocents, which is not the truth."

"How much longer does the bombing continue?" Biden said in his speech. "Because we're going to pay every single hour, every single day it continues, we're going to pay an escalating price in the Muslim world."

But in his comments, Biden also praised President Bush's handling of the situation and said he could "go down as a great president."

A spokesman for Hastert said the speaker would not retract his criticism of Biden. He said Hastert is concerned enemies of the United States could seize upon Biden's "unfortunate" use of the words "high-tech bully" in their anti-American propaganda.


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