Saturday, December 6, 2003

Ken Lucas unleashes criticism of Bush



By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

No longer restrained by political calculations of a re-election campaign, U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas is speaking out against the administration of President Bush.

In his first interview since announcing last week he would not seek a fourth term in Congress, Lucas was critical of Bush's handling of the war in Iraq and of the prescription drug benefit the president championed and will sign into law next week.

Lucas, 71, the lone Democrat in Kentucky's federal delegation, has often supported Bush and rarely spoke against the president's plans or policies.

But with Democrat Nick Clooney running for his 4th District seat, Lucas apparently has grown comfortable taking on some of the decisions being made by the White House.

Lucas, a military veteran, originally supported the invasion of Iraq.

"I thought that the administration needed bipartisan support, and I was for our commander-in-chief," Lucas said. "Because I felt at that time it was the right thing do. If I knew then what I know now, I would have never voted for the war.

"There was no imminent danger about weapons of mass destruction," he said. "And the tune of the administration changed from that to ridding a country of a ruthless dictator."

The Bush administration also was not straightforward about the intelligence it had, releasing tenuous information that fit its goal of attacking Iraq, Lucas said.

"I feel deceived," he said.

"I don't think we have a good plan for an exit strategy," Lucas said. "I think it was handled poorly as far as not bringing in other countries."

He said he supports the military and believes "we've got to stay the course."

"We have no choice," he said. "We've got to protect our young men and women and we've got to win that, whatever the cost."

During his five years in Washington, Lucas often has been one of few House Democrats to support Bush's legislative agenda. But he voted against the $400 billion Medicare prescription drug benefit.

While Lucas believes there needs to be a drug benefit, he said the bill Congress passed "is not a good bill."

"The real beneficiaries "are the prescription drug companies," Lucas said. "The government negotiates with the (drug companies) for the drugs that they buy and furnish to the (Veterans Administration) yet we were not willing to negotiate for the price for this huge block of seniors."

E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com




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