Many on Capitol Hill Miss President's Speech Many members of Congress didn't catch President Bush's speech Wednesday. But that didn't stop some of them from responding anyway.
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Many on Capitol Hill Miss President's Speech

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Many on Capitol Hill Miss President's Speech

Many on Capitol Hill Miss President's Speech

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Just up Pennsylvania Avenue at the US Capitol, NPR's David Welna had a hard time finding senators who'd actually listened to the president's speech today.

DAVID WELNA reporting:

You'd think President Bush's fellow Republicans in the Senate would make a point of being up to speed on his latest Iraq speech. But although Arizona Senator Jon Kyl went before cameras to defend the president's Iraq policies, he admitted off-camera he hadn't heard the president.

Did you hear the president's speech this morning?

Senator JON KYL (Republican, Arizona): I did not. Did not.

WELNA: Ditto for Alaska's Lisa Murkowski.

Did you hear President Bush this morning speaking about Iraq?

Senator LISA MURKOWSKI (Republican, Alaska): I didn't, no. No, no.

WELNA: Well, what do...

Sen. MURKOWSKI: I was hoping to, but I missed it.

WELNA: And Nebraska's Chuck Hagel...

Senator CHUCK HAGEL (Republican, Nebraska): I did not.

WELNA: ...and Georgia's Johnny Isakson...

Senator JOHNNY ISAKSON (Republican, Georgia): No, I did not.

WELNA: ...and the same for Maine's Olympia Snowe.

Senator OLYMPIA SNOWE (Republican, Maine): No, I wasn't able to. I haven't heard it. So...

WELNA: Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee said he did hear a bit.

Senator LINCOLN CHAFEE (Republican, Rhode Island): The small snippet that I caught, to be honest--it was just in passing. I'll be honest.

WELNA: The Republican chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, had the most to say.

Senator RICHARD LUGAR (Republican, Indiana; Chair, Foreign Relations Committee): I heard parts of the speech in the amidst of other assignments, but essentially much of it was similar to other parts that he covered before. There may have been nuances that I missed, but it was a pretty straightforward speech.

WELNA: More Senate Democrats were up on the president's speech, though Massachusetts' Edward Kennedy panned it.

Senator EDWARD KENNEDY (Democrat, Massachusetts): They never waited till the inspection was going over there. This is a war of choice. And when the president said this was a war of necessity, that's just not leveling with the American people. Secondly, the president says that the members of Congress had the exact same intelligence as the president has, but we're going to find that out.

WELNA: Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions didn't hear the speech, but he did react to Kennedy.

Senator JEFF SESSIONS (Republican, Alabama): We did see the same information. And it was briefed to us in detail by George Tenet, who was the head of CIA under Bill Clinton and remained under our President Bush. And George Tenet said it was a slam dunk that there was weapons of mass destruction there.

WELNA: For Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, the president equated the war on terror with the war in Iraq.

Senator RUSS FEINGOLD (Democrat, Wisconsin): The president's argument is somehow `We got to beat them here, we got to put all our marbles on Iraq.' And I think that is exactly what Osama bin Laden wants. So that's the core of the problem. But I'm glad this debate is coming out in the open. For months, they wouldn't acknowledge the core of my argument, which is that we are feeding the insurgency there. Everybody knows that, but the president is in denial.

WELNA: And apparently he's in a TV ratings slump on Capitol Hill. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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