Published on Friday,October 1, 2004 by Reuters
Report on US Role in Allawi Speech Stirs Complaint
WASHINGTON - President Bush came under fire from a senior Senate Democrat on Thursday after the Washington Post said the U.S. government and a representative of Bush's reelection campaign helped draft Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's speech to Congress last week.
Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California said in a Sept. 30 letter to Bush that the newspaper report raised doubts about Allawi's optimistic assertions on Iraqi reconstruction efforts and the prospect for elections.
"To learn that this was not an independent view, but one that was massaged by your campaign operatives, jaundices the speech and reduces the credibility of his remarks," Feinstein said. "I hope that you'll let me know whether these claims are accurate."
The White House had no immediate comment on Feinstein's letter or the Post article, which was published on Thursday as Bush and Democratic rival John Kerry prepared to argue about Iraq in the first of three presidential debates.
But the Bush-Cheney campaign denied involvement in the Allawi speech.
The White House showcased Allawi's visit to the United States as evidence of progress in Iraq that bolstered Bush's optimistic outlook for the country in the face of escalating insurgent violence.
Allawi assured a joint session of Congress on Sept. 23 that Iraq would successfully hold elections in January and appeared alongside Bush in the White House Rose Garden where he blamed the news media for negative perceptions about his country.
But many of his remarks on Iraq employed the same themes, and sometimes the same terms, as statements by Bush and other administration officials.
On Thursday, the Post quoted unnamed administration officials as saying Allawi had been coached and aided by the U.S. government, its allies and friends of the administration.
It specifically cited former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor for sending Allawi recommended phrases and helping him rehearse. The newspaper said Senor represents the Bush campaign in media appearances.
Senor could not be reached for comment.
But Bush-Cheney spokesman Scott Stanzel said Senor did not work for the campaign, though he acknowledged that campaign staff direct media outlets to Senor for interviews.
"He's not a campaign spokesman, a consultant or a staff member," Stanzel said. "He's someone who speaks out on behalf of the president's policies. He's someone who supports the president's reelection."
The Post said Allawi's speech was part of a larger administration effort to battle negative perceptions about Iraq. The effort also involves the Pentagon and the U.S. Agency for International Development, it said.
© 2004 Reuters Ltd