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Governor Culver defends Iraq visit

Iowa Governor Chet Culver explains his recent trip to Iraq
Iowa Governor Chet Culver explains his recent trip to Iraq

Iowa Governor Chet Culver recently returned from a surprise visit to Iraq, and already, he's having to defend his decision to go there.  Some Republicans questioned whether Culver's trip was more about politics than the military.

However, Culver said on Tuesday, that as Commander-in-Chief of the Iowa National Guard, many units of which are currently serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, it is his duty and responsibility to visit the troops.  "I am the Commander-in-Chief of the Iowa National Guard, and I have a duty and obligation to do all I can to support our troops.  As far as I'm concerned, that means being on the ground with them in combat."  Culver was speaking Tuesday at a news conference, urging lawmakers to support a new measure offering unemployment benefits to people who must quit their jobs when a spouse is deployed by the military.

Gov. Culver also honored Capt. Daniel Whitten, a Johnston High School graduate who was killed in Afghanistan last month.

Culver's trip has also drawn criticism from his newest Democratic challenger, former Des Moines School Board member Jonathan Narcisse.  Narcisse stated that "the Governor ought to be here, leading those issues, and not looking for photo opportunities for his political campaign."  Narcisse joined the race while Governor Culver was visiting the troops in Iraq. 

Governor Culver declined to say whether he would debate Narcisse before the Democratic primary, saying he would wait to see if Narcisse obtained the required number of signatures to qualify to appear on the primary ballot.