Bush, Democrats Weigh In on Saddam Sentence

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President Bush hailed the death sentence against Saddam Hussein as he campaigned ahead of Tuesday's midterm elections. Leading Democrats were cautious about what the verdict will mean for Iraq.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

In the U.S., reaction to Saddam's sentencing came fast from President Bush and from prominent Democrats, who all have their eyes on Tuesday's midterm elections.

NPR's David Greene is traveling with the president on his final campaign swing and sent this report from Nebraska.

DAVID GREENE: The president spoke to reporters at the airport in Waco, Texas. He spent the night at his ranch and was flying off to campaign for several Republican candidates. The president said Saddam's death sentence shows Iraq is on its way to replacing the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: The man who once struck fear into the hearts of Iraqis had to listen to free Iraqis recount the acts of torture and murder that he ordered against their families and against them. Today, the victims of this regime have received a measure of the justice which many thought would never come.

GREENE: Mr. Bush said Iraqis have a lot of work ahead in stabilizing their country.

President BUSH: Yet history will record today's judgment as an important achievement on the path to a free and just and unified society.

GREENE: The president and his party are struggling in the polls largely because of the current situation in Iraq, and today Mr. Bush was stumping for two Republican candidates who never thought their races would be as competitive as they are.

Indeed, Saddam's sentencing was only a brief interruption in the president's final campaign swing. Then again, it wasn't really an interruption at all, since Iraq is high on voters' minds as they head to the polls Tuesday.

David Greene, NPR News, Grand Island, Nebraska.

ELLIOTT: Democrats were not about to let President Bush have the floor alone. California Senator Barbara Boxer says Saddam got what he deserved for crimes against humanity.

Senator BARBARA BOXER (Democrat, California): The tragedy is those crimes against Sunni, against Shia, are happening every day in Iraq, and 60 percent of the Iraqi people in a recent poll said it was okay to shoot an American soldier. So yeah, he got what he deserved, but we have a long way to go.

ELLIOTT: Former Georgia Senator Max Cleland also warns against making too much of the verdict.

Mr. MAX CLELAND (Former Georgia Senator): The truth of the matter is, though, you can hang him from the rooftops and it's not going to change anything. We captured him three years ago. It hasn't changed anything. It made everything worse.

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