Gov. Ted Strickland says he has learned an early lesson in office the hard way: When the chief executive of a large state speaks, people listen.

Strickland, on the job for six weeks, is being slammed nationwide in newspaper editorials and Internet blogs for supposedly being heartless because of comments he made last week about Iraqi war refuges.

When asked whether he thinks any of the 7,000 Iraqi refugees that the Bush administration plans to allow in the United States this year should come to Ohio, Strickland, who opposed the war as a congressman, said no.

“I think Ohio and Ohioans have contributed a lot to Iraq in terms of blood, sweat and too many tears,” Strickland told the Associated Press. “I am sympathetic to the plight of the innocent Iraqi people who have fled that country. However, I would not want to ask Ohioans to accept a greater burden than they already have borne for the Bush administration’s failed policies.”

Those comments prompted several Ohio newspapers to criticize Strickland in editorials, and USA Today said today in an opinion piece – complete with a grim-faced picture of the governor – that Strickland’s answer on Valentine’s Day was “as thoughtless as it was heartless.”

One blogger even suggested that refugees get rooms in the governor’s Bexley residence.

Strickland said today that although a governor doesn’t dictate where refugees locate, he was expressing his frustration about the Iraq war and would welcome Iraqi refugees if they came to Ohio.

And although he doesn’t think he’s heartless, he said he wishes he would have chosen his words more carefully. . .

“I would hope that Ohio would be leading the nation in regard to how this situation would be handled,” said Adnan Mirza, executive director of the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.


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