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Wash. politicians battle over Osama comments

Washington Sen. Patty Murray is battling a campaign ad run by her opponent George Nethercutt that her comments on Osama bin Laden made excuses for terrorism.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has “a different view of Osama bin Laden,” her campaign rival charged Wednesday in a stinging attack ad that uses a picture of the al-Qaida leader and the senator’s words to challenge her credentials in the war on terror.

“George Nethercutt’s ad is a lie and he knows it,” Murray shot back at her Republican challenger. “...My opponent needs to stop playing politics with terrorism.”

The ad shows Murray telling a high school audience in 2002 that bin Laden had been at work in unnamed countries “for decades building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities. And the people are extremely grateful,” she says.

“He’s made their lives better. We have not done that,” she adds.

Nethercutt appears briefly on screen in the ad, saying he approved it “because winning the war on terror means fighting terrorists, not excusing them.”

Terror politicsNethercutt, a five-term House member, has consistently trailed Murray in the polls and lags behind his rival in campaign cash as well. He launched the ad at a time when party officials and donors alike must decide which candidates deserve their strongest support in the final month of the campaign.

While the National Republican Senatorial Committee has already run independent television ads in a few key races, Nethercutt’s has not been among them. His prospects for an upset are likely to hinge in part on his ability to gain strong financial support from the party.

Campaign rivals often clash over the war on terror, but even in the presidential race, neither President Bush nor Sen. John Kerry has suggested the other man views bin Laden as anything but an enemy of America.

The ad was posted to Nethercutt’s Web site early in the day, and a spokesman said it was airing statewide.

'Out of context'Murray responded several hours later.

“My remarks are being taken out of context,” she told reporters in a conference call. She said that in the course of a one-hour discussion with students in December 2002, “I only raised questions about why he (bin Laden) is supported in Arab countries and what we might do to combat that.” Her remarks were widely reported at the time she made them.

Murray added, “I have always said Osama bin Laden is an evil terrorist who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans.”

Murray was joined on the conference call by former Democratic Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia, a triple amputee as a result of wounds suffered in the Vietnam War. Cleland lost his own re-election race in 2002 after his opponent questioned his commitment to the war on terrorism with an ad that showed bin Laden and then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

He said Republicans were trying to make Murray the latest victim of “slime ball politics.”