Potential rival Dunn says Murray's Osama comments `stupid'

Associated Press
King 5 News


OLYMPIA, Wash. - Potential Senate rival Jennifer Dunn says Sen. Patty Murray's comments about Osama bin Laden's benevolence were "stupid" and ill-considered, but not a career-ending gaffe.

Dunn, a Bellevue Republican elected to Congress in 1992, the same year Murray went to the Senate, confirmed in an interview Friday that she's under heavy pressure from her party to run against Murray next year, but has made no decisions. Even President Bush has given a nudge, she said.

She told The Associated Press that if she does run, she hasn't decided how to deal with Murray's comments about bin Laden.

"She said a stupid thing," Dunn said. "She said it without thinking."

A Murray spokesman countered that some Republicans were engaging "in silly, partisan games."

Last month, addressing a high school class in Vancouver, Wash., Murray asked students to consider why bin Laden is so popular in some parts of the world.

The answers may be uncomfortable, Murray said, but are important for Americans to ponder.

"He's been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day-care facilities, building health-care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven't done that," Murray said.

"How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?"

The remarks made headlines and heated up the talk shows. Republican state Chairman Chris Vance called the comments "outrageous and despicable." Both he and another potential Murray rival, Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., challenged her to debate her views.

On Friday, when told of Dunn's comments, Murray's spokesman Todd Webster said: "President Bush shares Senator Murray's view that we should do more around the world to combat terrorism, and he has pledged to increase foreign aid by 50 percent. Unfortunately some Republicans continue to engage in silly, partisan games."

Murray hasn't given interviews on her Osama comments. However, in a prepared statement Dec. 20, Murray made it clear she considers Osama bin Laden "an evil terrorist who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans."

She said he must be brought to justice, but that the United States must also improve its relations with the Arab world and elsewhere.

Asked Friday if she's joining the call for a public debate on Murray's remarks, Dunn said, "I don't know what my set of tactics would be if I decide to run for the Senate."

Dunn said Murray was vulnerable before the comments—and more so now.

"I feel she is severely in a position now where she should feel threatened, now more than a couple of weeks ago," Dunn said. "It's not just one thing, those comments, the fact that she lost the Senate for the Democrats.

"Senators make comments every day, some taken out of context."

Murray stepped down last month after serving two years as chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, saying she wanted to focus on her home state. Though her party lost its majority in the Senate last fall, it was able to push back a fierce Republican challenge to Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in a December runoff.

Dunn said she doesn't see Murray's remarks it as a career-ending misstep or in the same league as the comments that cost Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott his leadership post.

"I don't think Republicans will go after her the way Democrats went after Trent Lott. The nature of the comments was different."

On other topics, Dunn said:

• She's being wooed by the White House and national party leaders to run for the Senate, but hasn't given them any encouragement. She said she loves her role in the House and has seniority and connections she would have to give up if she ran to become a freshman senator.

• Fund-raising would be a major consideration in a statewide race. She said she has about $800,000 on hand and that a Senate race would cost 10 times that.

• Nethercutt should be considered as a good candidate for the Senate. She mentioned him three times during an interview.

• An overture to become the $700,000-a-year director of the Air Transport Association "definitely is not going to happen." She said a job in the private sector is always a possibility and that she regularly listens to offers. But asked if she intends to stay in the House for the next two years, she said, "Of course."

• Transportation, tax relief, unemployment insurance, and trade and economic development are atop her work list for 2003, most of them to be dealt with through her seat on the Ways and Means Committee.


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