Boyda defends decision to step out of Iraq hearing

? Kansas Rep. Nancy Boyda is defending her decision to step out of a hearing room last week while a retired Army general testified about U.S. progress in Iraq.

But Republicans on Monday accused Boyda of refusing to listen to the positive aspects of the Bush administration’s new Iraq strategy.

Boyda, a freshman Democrat from Topeka, said she left the House Armed Services Committee hearing on Friday for about 10 minutes during the testimony of retired Gen. Jack Keane.

“There was only so much that you could take until we in fact had to leave the room for a while,” Boyda said after she returned, according to a transcript of the hearing. “So I think I am back and maybe can articulate some things – after so much of the frustration of having to listen to what we listened to.”

Keane had testified that since the troop surge began, U.S. forces “are on the offensive and we have the momentum.” He also said that security has improved in every neighborhood and district in and around Baghdad, and that “cafes, pool halls, coffee houses that I visited are full of people.”

When Boyda returned to the hearing, she ridiculed Keane’s description of Iraq “as in some way or another that it’s a place that I might take the family for a vacation – things are going so well – those kinds of comments will in fact show up in the media and further divide this country instead of saying, ‘Here’s the reality of the problem.'”

The National Republican Congressional Committee issued a statement Monday criticizing Boyda for trying to ignore positive news about Iraq.

“Clearly Representative Boyda believes that only the ‘bad’ news about Iraq should be reported,” NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said.

Boyda’s chief of staff, Shanan Guinn, said Monday that Boyda left the hearing “to kind of compose herself because she’s understandably frustrated with the way the war’s going.”

“She was frustrated with how the administration is handling the war, that no one wants to have a real conversation about ways to move forward and our brave men and women oversees are being played like a political ping pong ball,” Guinn said.

The NRCC has made Boyda a top target for defeat in next year’s election. She narrowly unseated Republican Rep. Jim Ryun in 2006.