By Margaret Talev - Mcclatchy
In a stinging Democratic Party response to President Bush's State of the Union address, freshman Sen. James Webb of
Webb, who has a son serving in the Marines in
"We need a new direction," he said, from "the greatest strategic blunder in modern times."
"Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos," Webb said. "But an immediate shift toward strong regionally based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of
The Democrat-led Senate and House of Representatives plan to pass nonbinding resolutions opposing the president's plan to send 21,500 additional troops to
Before Webb was a Vietnam War hero, or President Reagan's Navy secretary, or a best-selling author, or the Republican-turned-Democrat who beat Sen. George Allen last year to give Democrats the last seat they needed to take control of the Senate, he was a boxer at the U.S. Naval Academy.
On Tuesday night, he delivered his harshest blows against the war in
But he also jabbed at other openings, saying that now that Democrats control Congress for the first time in Bush's presidency, they will challenge him to deliver on promises to improve public education, health care and the plight of Hurricane Katrina survivors.
Webb also called on Bush to support the House-passed minimum wage increase and nurture an economy that restores the middle class. And he said Democrats would work with Bush to promote energy independence.
But he chose harsher rhetoric for what he framed as Bush's abuse of the public's loyalty, trust and welfare in the rush to war.
"The war's costs to our nation have been staggering," he said. "Financially. The damage to our reputation around the world. The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism, and especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve."
Invoking the legacies of two past Republican presidents -- Theodore Roosevelt for taking on corporate robber barons and Dwight D. Eisenhower for ending the Korean War -- Webb challenged Bush to follow their examples.
"If he does, we will join him," he said. "If he does not, we will be showing him the way