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Bush Criticizes Democrats on Terror War

Associated Press | September 28,2006
By JENNIFER LOVEN

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - President Bush suggested Thursday that Democrats don't have the stomach to fight the war on terror, battling back in the election-season clamor over administration intelligence showing terrorism spreading.

"Five years after 9/11, the worst attack on the American homeland in our history, Democrats offer nothing but criticism and obstruction and endless second-guessing," Bush said at a Republican fundraiser.

"The party of FDR and the party of Harry Truman has become the party of cut and run," Bush told a convention-center audience of over 2,000 people. The event put $2.5 million in the campaign accounts of Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and the state GOP.

Democrats immediately disputed the charge that they would hold back in the anti-terror battle.

"On his watch, five years after 9/11, he not only has failed to capture Osama bin Laden, but as the (National Intelligence Estimate) indicates, his failed policies have made America less safe and spawned terrorism, not decreased it," said Karen Finney, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee. "Democrats will be tough and smart, and will actually fight the terrorists, not leave them to plan future attacks."

Bush's no-holds-barred speech, one of his harshest yet on the campaign trail, came less than six weeks before midterm elections in which Democrats are seeking to strip Republicans of their control of one or both houses of Congress.

The war of words continued a nearly weeklong tussle by both parties over the implications of a newly revealed estimate, an analysis of terror trends put together by the nation's top intelligence analysts in 16 spy agencies.

The document concluded that Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for jihadists worldwide, whom it said have grown in number and geographic reach. The report said the factors, such as the Iraq war, that are fueling the jihadist movement's growth outweigh its vulnerabilities and that, if the current trend continues, risks to the U.S. interests at home and abroad will grow.

Portions of the five-month-old report were leaked over the weekend, and Bush ordered the key judgments - four of its 30 pages - declassified on Tuesday in hopes that wider availability of most conclusions would quell the criticism.

Democrats continued to point to the report to argue that the 2003 Iraq invasion, by fanning anti-U.S. sentiments and helping terrorists recruit, is one reason to change leadership in Congress.

On Thursday, Bush accused the opposition party of cherrypicking pieces of the report "for partisan political gain" and "to mislead the American people and justify their policy of withdrawal from Iraq."

"The greatest danger is not that America's presence in the war in Iraq is drawing new recruits to the terrorist cause," Bush said. "The greatest danger is that an American withdrawal from Iraq would embolden the terrorists and help them find new recruits to carry out even more destructive attacks."

Though not by name, he quoted Rep. Jane Harman of California, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, as saying that because of the Iraq war "it may become more likely" that the U.S. will have to contend with terrorists on its own soil again, rather than less likely as the president argues. And he quoted Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, as saying the world would be better off without the Iraq war and if former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein were still in power.

"Some in Washington, some decent people, patriotic people, feel like we should not be on the offensive in this war on terror," the president said. "We will fight them wherever they make a stand."

The president also criticized House Democrats, including their leadership, who voted this week against a White House plan for interrogating, detaining and trying terrorists. "We must give our professionals the tools they need to protect the American people in this war on terror and those in the House of Representatives were wrong to vote against this bill," he said.

Democrats, joined by some Republicans, say the legislation would give the president too much latitude when deciding whether aggressive interrogations cross the line and violate international standards of prisoner treatment.

Bush headed from Alabama to Ohio to raise $600,000 for the Ohio GOP and Rep. Deborah Pryce, who is struggling to hold on to her seat in an evenly split district and stressing her independence from the president.

That fundraiser was held behind closed doors - like most that Bush does lately.

By Thursday's end, the president had headlined 68 political events - all fundraisers - benefiting 37 candidates, the national GOP, several state counterparts and the campaign arms of House and Senate Republicans. Half of them overall have been closed to media coverage, with the percentage going up to nearly two-thirds in recent months.

The only one of the president's six political events this week that was open was the fundraiser for Riley, who is favored for re-election over his challenger, Democratic Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley. ...

 

 

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