Bush Confronts Critics of Iraq Policies
By JENNIFER LOVEN | The Associated Press | September 30, 2006
WASHINGTON -- Gloves-off election-year rhetoric hit the radio Saturday, as President Bush argued that critics are wrongheaded to argue for a different policy in Iraq while Democrats suggested Bush is more interested in politically helpful slogans than success in the war.
With just over five weeks to go before midterm elections in which GOP control of Congress could be at risk, Democrats have been citing a government intelligence assessment to bolster their criticism of Bush's approach to Iraq. The classified National Intelligence Estimate, parts of which Bush declassified earlier this week, says the Iraq war has contributed to a global growth in the terrorist movement, but it also says success there could drain jihadists of momentum.
The president has been fighting back against the Democratic attacks with a series of appearances, and he recycled many lines from earlier in the week in his Saturday radio address.
"Some in Washington have selectively quoted from this document to make the case that by fighting the terrorists in Iraq, we are making our people less secure here at home," Bush said. "Five years after the 9/11 attacks, some people in Washington still do not understand the nature of the enemy. The only way to protect our citizens at home is to go on the offense against the enemy across the world."
Democrats chose Tammy Duckworth, an Army helicopter pilot who lost both legs in Iraq and now is running for Congress in Illinois, to respond.
"Anyone who challenges our failed policies, or suggests the need for a new strategy, is accused of 'cutting and running,'" Duckworth said. "Well, I didn't cut and run, Mr. President. Like so many others, I proudly fought and sacrificed. ... And I believe the brave men and women who are serving in Iraq today, their families and the American people deserve more than the same empty slogans and political name-calling."
Duckworth, who faces Republican Peter Roskam for an open seat, was referring to a Bush speech Thursday at a GOP fundraiser in Alabama. "The party of FDR and the party of Harry Truman has become the party of cut and run," Bush said then.
He also charged in Alabama that "some in Washington, some decent people, patriotic people, feel like we should not be on the offensive in this war on terror," without offering any evidence of such remarks.
White House press secretary Tony Snow acknowledged Friday that no Democrats have said directly that they do not want to take the offensive against terrorists, but he defended Bush's no-holds-barred politicking.
"I think there's been a lot of ratcheting up of rhetoric on the other side where the president has been accused of everything from dereliction of duty to not caring about what happens to people who have been claimed on the battlefields," Snow said. "The point the president is trying to make is, there are going to be some clear choices."
Bush argued Saturday that maintaining the U.S. presence in Iraq is crucial to winning the broader war on terror.
"Our safety depends on the outcome of the battle in Iraq," he said. "Withdrawing from Iraq before the enemy is defeated would embolden the terrorists."