Clinton challenges Bush on Iraq, saying don’t veto will of the people

As Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) continues to weather the insults and protests of anti-war groups, she offered terse words for President Bush Wednesday, telling him not to veto the deadline for withdrawal from Iraq the Senate passed Tuesday.

Clinton said if Bush vetoed such legislation passed by both the House and Senate, he would “be willing to veto the will of the American people.”

“I challenge him to withdraw his veto threat,” Clinton said.

The Senate narrowly passed the Iraq emergency supplemental funding bill late Tuesday, which included language that sets a 120-day window to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq.

Clinton joined every other Democrat in voting for the measure, which passed 50-48, but Bush has vowed to veto it, saying that the Democrat-led Congress is undermining the troops and the tactical decisions of military commanders.

Clinton issued her challenge to Bush at the historic Sewell-Belmont House in Washington as she accepted the National Organization for Women’s (NOW) endorsement of her presidential campaign.

As she entered the building from the side, Clinton was yet again met by the anti-war group Code Pink, whose members were chanting, waving signs and warning, “NOW is backing a war candidate.”

The senator politely waved as she made her way inside but didn’t stop to engage the protesters.

Code Pink protesters provided The Hill with a release of their own endorsement: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “Rice and Clinton are the war princesses of a political machine that does nothing to protect women in this country or abroad; Rice orchestrated the Iraq war for the Bush administration, and Clinton continues to relentlessly back her own support for it,” the release read. “Being female is no cover to their hawkish militarism.”

Clinton told representatives from NOW that standing with her means ending the war “the right way.”

The senator joined the rest of the Democratic field in addressing the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department Wednesday morning, where the contestants, buoyed by Tuesday’s surprise passage of the Senate’s Iraq measure, all spoke about the need to end the war.

After the NOW event, Clinton was asked if she thinks some of Bush’s key aides should testify under oath about the controversy surrounding Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

She said it would be “appropriate” that they would testify, but she stopped short of endorsing a curtailment of the use of executive privilege.

NOW joined EMILY’s List in endorsing Clinton as the leading campaigns insist that the women’s vote will be a crucial bloc in both the hunt for the nomination and the general election.

Clinton told the group of women and girls, many of whom were waving signs that read “Hillary — I’m Ready,” that accepting the endorsement was an “emotional experience.”

“Making change means taking a chance,” Clinton told the cheering group.

With more than 500,000 “contributing members,” the NOW political action committee (PAC) endorsement could translate into early organizational and financial success for the senator.

Kim Gandy, the PAC’s chairwoman, said in her remarks that the group would provide training, tools and resources for members, so they can convince voters “to say, ‘I’m ready for a woman president. I’m ready for this woman president.’”
Gandy said the Clinton campaign represents “a dream realized and a new dawn for all who share the dream of equality and justice.”

The Clinton campaign also announced Wednesday the endorsement of tennis legend Billie Jean King, who in the famed “Battle of the Sexes” in 1973 beat formerly No. 1-ranked Bobby Riggs.

King called Clinton “a winner who has the vision, the drive and the knowledge to lead this country,” according to a campaign release.

Calling Wednesday “a day of outreach to women voters,” the campaign issued an e-mail from Geraldine Ferraro, former vice presidential candidate, asking supporters to donate money to her campaign so that she might “finish the first fundraising quarter strong.”

The campaign referred to women voters as “the X-factor in this election,” speculating that women could account for as much as 54 percent of all voters.