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Cramer 'cynical' of Bush proposal

By Eric Fleischauer 340-2435

The U.S. has been trying to fight a war on the cheap, said U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville. And he fears President Bush's proposed change in direction comes too late.

Cramer said he hadn't decided if he would support funding for the surge in troops proposed by Bush on Wednesday night.

"I'm cynical about his speech," Cra-mer said Thursday. "I want to know this is not just more of the same. ... I won't do anything to jeopardize support for the troops that are there, but it's another thing to talk about a surge. The president needs to understand that he cannot take (funding for a surge) for granted."

Cramer, a rare Democratic stalwart in his support for the Iraq war, slammed the administration's prosecution of it.

"Well before the speech, I was entering the angry stage," Cramer said. "Are they (the administration) in denial over there? They can't stay in their own closed world."

Cramer is more than a voice; he's a player. Suddenly in the congressional majority, he is on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, including the pivotal Subcommittee on Defense. The new Congress has not named the members of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, but almost certainly Cramer will be one of them, as he was last term.

Within that committee, he previously was — and likely will remain — on the Subcommittee on Oversight and the Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence.

Bush said Wednesday he would raise troop levels in Iraq by 21,500 — from 132,000 to 153,500 — at a cost of $5.6 billion. To fund the plan, he'll need to go through committees in which Cramer has leadership roles.

"He said he's going to come to Congress for billions and billions of dollars as a supplemental request," Cramer said.

"They've been getting away with that with Congress. I hope they know it's not going to be as easy a thing to get through now."

Cramer said the administration has been terrible about sharing information with Congress, a problem he hopes will improve following the departure of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

"We've had regular briefings with Rumsfeld, but they've been laughably simple. There's been more details in newspaper stories than we get in what are supposed to be inside, confidential, classified briefings about the war."

Cramer said he hopes, but is not confident, that the information barrier came from ousted Rumsfeld and not from the president.

"I've felt that I've been a partner who's been taken for granted," Cramer said. "There are people like me who wanted to be supportive of the president, but we're kind of worn out now."

Those surrounding Bush, including Rumsfeld, exacerbated the problem, Cramer said.

"For a while now we've wondered if the president was surrounded by folks that are dangerous to him, and maybe even dangerous to the country," he said.

Cramer, who has represented Alabama's 5th Congressional District since 1991, said he likes the prospect of President Bush changing directions in Iraq, but he wonders if it is too little and too late.

"All of the sudden (Wednesday) night, even in the way he looked and the way he delivered information, it was like he was a different person," Cramer said.

Paying more attention to critics, including those in Congress, might have saved the nation a lot of misery.

"It seems we were fighting the war on the cheap," Cramer said of the conflict that has lasted almost four years and cost the lives of more than 3,000 U.S. troops.

"We're paying a heavy price for a very bad war plan."

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