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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tony Knowles criticized the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq and accused his Republican opponent, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of voting against fully funding veterans benefits.
During a campaign speech Wednesday in Juneau, Knowles said Murkowski voted against a motion in Congress to "fully fund" veterans' health care, which he says is underfunded $1.2 billion to $3.8 billion. The Murkowski campaign said Knowles is intentionally trying to mislead the public.
"Who could be opposed to that?" he said. "I've never come across anyone that said, 'No, we shouldn't fully fund veterans' health care.' Yet, when it came up to a vote in Congress, Lisa Murkowski voted against it. Not because she is a bad person but because that was the party line."
According to a statement from the Murkowski campaign released in August, the senator's vote was a procedural vote on whether to waive the rules of the Budget Act, "not votes against veterans."
"I am personally very offended that Tony Knowles would mislead Alaskans into thinking that I am against funding for veterans," Murkowski said. The statement also noted that Murkowski was responsible for an amendment increasing veterans' health care funding by $1.2 billion.
Knowles also questioned why the Bush administration has diverted U.S. troops from their missions in Afghanistan to fighting the war in Iraq.
He said that at a town meeting in Kenai earlier this year, a veteran asked: "What I want to know is why we didn't continue to go after Osama bin Laden and the people that attacked America. Why we took the resources that we needed to fight that war to go into Iraq (and a war) that we don't have any strategy to get out of."
Knowles said the nation needs a change in direction in the war on terrorism and how it relates to other nations in the world.
He said the country is more polarized now than ever before because political rhetoric and divide-and-conquer strategies have been used to separate the nation.
He criticized Vice President Dick Cheney for his comments earlier this week suggesting that a vote for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry would incite terrorist attacks.
The Associated Press quoted Cheney during a campaign speech in Iowa: "It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll get hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."
Knowles said elections bring out the differences between two candidates. But he added that candidates should not accuse their opponents of being unpatriotic or a threat to national security.
"I don't think that we need to say that if you elect the other person from another party then that will make us a target for terrorist attacks," Knowles said.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at email@example.com.