DES MOINES, Iowa -- Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden says any talk that the U.S. troop surge in Iraq is working is "fantasy" since its goal was to lead to a fully functioning unity government in the war-torn country.
The Delaware senator, speaking to the Iowa State Association of Counties at a downtown hotel Wednesday, also joined his Democratic rival and Senate colleague, Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, in calling for a massive investment in the nation's infrastructure -- its roads, bridges and sewers -- to make up for a longtime lack of upgrading public works.
Biden, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said one key to helping counties and other municipal governments deal with federal mandates is to help free up some of the money now used to fund the Iraq war.
Amid reports that the U.S. military surge has helped to stabilize insurgent attacks in Baghdad and a recent Pew Research Center poll that found 48 percent of Americans now believe the U.S. military effort in Iraq is going well, up from 30 percent in February, Biden said, "This whole notion that the surge is working is fantasy.
"The surge was to provide breathing room. Breathing room for what purpose?" he asked the officials assembled from Iowa's 99 counties. "To work out a coalition government to end this civil war."
Biden said there is "let me emphasize, no political progress among the major factions" in trying to govern Iraq. Biden has long supported a decentralized federal government system for Iraq.
Dodd, who appeared earlier before the counties' organization, portrayed himself as a political conciliator and appeared to take a shot at a major rival for the nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, by referencing the campaign slogan -- turn up the heat -- that her campaign unveiled earlier this month.
"You understand as I do that we weren't elected to squabble. We're elected to produce results on behalf of the people we represent," Dodd said.
"Some people talk about turning up the heat, firing up the crowd, making people angry and convincing people how strong a fighter you are," Dodd said. "I think the American people would like to tone down the heat, tone down the rhetoric and they'd like to see us get together and start solving problems for the people of the states. The fighting needs to stop. Producing results is where we need to be as a country."
Like Dodd, Biden, a former county official in Delaware, said there was a desire by the American public to get results, not partisan rhetoric.
Biden said that watching a national budget surplus turn into a deficit during the past decade was not "any one person's fault" and was a "national problem," not one for Democrats or Republicans to use to place blame on the others.
"American people are neither liberal or conservative. The American people are pragmatic," Biden said. Noting that the need to upgrade infrastructure is not an "ideological" issue, he contended, "there are pragmatic answers to every one of the problems we face."
(c) 2007, Chicago Tribune.
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