'08 Candidates Weigh In On Troop Increase

generic presidentiual election 08 Tom Vilsack Hillary Clinton Rudy Giuliani John McCain campaign white house (Mitt Romney)
The growing field of Democratic presidential candidates is almost uniformly in favor of the reverse of President Bush's plan — reducing U.S. troop presence in Iraq. Most Republicans stood behind Mr. Bush.

John Edwards, the 2004 Democratic candidate for Vice President, and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack have gone a step further, calling on Congress to block funding for a troop increase. But Vilsack said he is wary of holding back funds to try to force the return of troops already deployed in Iraq.

"I'm not willing to suggest we have a cutting off of funds that would really put people in greater danger than they are today," Vilsack told The Associated Press.

Two other Democrats with their eye on the Oval Office, Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Joe Biden of Delaware, have also said in media reports that congressional Democrats shouldn't cut off funding to force the president's hand on Iraq.

Edwards — who has labeled a troop increase the "McCain Doctrine" in a jab at Republican front-runner Sen. John McCain — said Congress "should make it clear to the president that he will not get any money to put more of our troops in harm's way until he provides a plan to turn responsibility of Iraq over to the Iraqi people and to ultimately leave Iraq."

The most cautious of the Democrats has been front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has said she would not favor a proposed troop escalation in Iraq unless it was part of a broader political solution to stabilize the country and bring American forces home. But aides said she would reserve final judgment until she sees details of the president's plan.

Clinton, who tops every national poll of likely 2008 Democratic presidential contenders, has been criticized by many party activists for refusing to recant her 2002 vote authorizing military action in Iraq. Other Democratic hopefuls who supported the invasion — including Edwards, Biden and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd — have all called the vote a mistake.

Dodd, who traveled to Iraq and Syria last month, wrote in a recent op-ed in The Des Moines Register that "searching for military solutions in Iraq today is a fool's errand."

In a break with the president, Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., opposed a troop increase.

"I do not believe that sending more troops to Iraq is the answer. Iraq requires a political rather than a military solution," Brownback said after meeting with top Iraqi officials in Baghdad. "I came away from these meetings convinced that the United States should not increase its involvement until Sunnis and Shia are more willing to cooperate with each other instead of shooting at each other."

"Instead of surging troops, we must press the Iraqi government to reach a political solution," he said. "We cannot achieve a political solution while a military solution is imposed. The best way to reach a democratic Iraq is to empower the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own nation building."

McCain, R-Ariz., has said for years that more troops are needed in Iraq, but he's also sought to separate himself from Bush by qualifying that it's not enough just to increase troop strength — the size of the increase and how the increase is implemented are also important.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he supported the troop increase but insisted on a regular measurement of whether the new strategy was working.

Another GOP contender, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, also lined up behind a troop increase this week, saying he would add five brigades in Baghdad and two regiments in Al-Anbar province.