updated 12/16/2003 11:01:06 AM ET 2003-12-16T16:01:06

The Washington congressman who criticized President Bush while visiting Baghdad last year has questioned the timing of the capture of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

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Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., told a Seattle radio station Monday the U.S. military could have found Saddam “a long time ago if they wanted.” Asked if he thought the weekend capture was timed to help Bush, McDermott chuckled and said: “Yeah. Oh, yeah.”

The Democratic congressman went on to say, “There’s too much by happenstance for it to be just a coincidental thing.”

When interviewer Dave Ross asked again if he meant to imply the Bush administration timed the capture for political reasons, McDermott said: “I don’t know that it was definitely planned on this weekend, but I know they’ve been in contact with people all along who knew basically where he was. It was just a matter of time till they’d find him.

'Suddenly they have to roll out something'
“It’s funny,” McDermott added, “when they’re having all this trouble, suddenly they have to roll out something.”

State Republicans immediately condemned McDermott’s remarks, saying the Seattle Democrat again was engaging in “crazy talk” about the Iraq war.

“Once again McDermott has embarrassed this state with his irresponsible ranting,” GOP state Chairman Chris Vance said in a news release. “Calling on him to apologize is useless, but I call on other Democrats to let the public know if they agree with McDermott — and Howard Dean, who recently said he thought it was possible that President Bush had advance knowledge about 9/11. The voters deserve to know if the entire Democratic Party believes in these sorts of bitter, paranoid conspiracy theories.”

Last year, Vance and other Republicans labeled McDermott “Baghdad Jim” for comments he made during a trip to Baghdad that President Bush “would mislead the American people” but that Saddam could be trusted.

On Monday, Democrats joined the criticism of McDermott.

'That is a fantasy'
“With all due respect to my colleague, that is a fantasy,” Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., said of McDermott’s comments. “That just is not right. ... It’s one thing to criticize this administration for having done this war. I mean, that’s a fair question. But to criticize them on the capture of Saddam, when it’s such a big thing to our troops, is just ridiculous.”

McDermott, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, called the timing of Saddam’s capture suspicious but said he was not alleging it had been intentionally delayed.

“Everything was going wrong, and they got a real Christmas gift, if you will, in that the troops did a magnificent job and found” Saddam, he said.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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