- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2001

LONDON — President Bush yesterday expressed disappointment and his aides expressed fury at Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle for criticizing U.S. foreign policy while the president is engaged in diplomatic talks with world leaders on foreign soil.
During a tour of the British Museum, Mr. Bush went out of his way to let reporters know that he did not appreciate the South Dakota Democrat branding him an isolationist on the day he departed for England, Italy and Kosovo.
"One of the things that America has prided itself on is a bipartisan foreign policy," the president said. "And I would hope that that tradition continues. It's a very important tradition."
Asked whether Mr. Daschle had gone too far by breaking the tradition by criticizing a president while on foreign soil, Mr. Bush opted to take the high road. "I think that's going to be up for Tom Daschle to make up his own mind whether he did or not," the president said.
His aides were less diplomatic.
"This is a real violation of a long-standing tradition of bipartisanship on foreign policy," said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. "It is unseemly, unwise and inaccurate."
White House counselor Karen Hughes agreed and said Mr. Daschle's comments "are just wrong."
"I hope we can chalk it up to the fact that the majority leader is still learning the ropes of his new job," she said during a round of interviews with the TV networks. "But still, this sort of thing is just not done. And I think the American people will not really appreciate it."
She added: "There's a long-standing bipartisan tradition that both Democrats and Republicans stand together on United States foreign policy, particularly when the president of the United States is representing our country at a major international summit, as President Bush is doing this week."
Mr. Daschle touched off the furor during a Wednesday breakfast meeting with reporters for USA Today and other Gannett newspapers. His critical comments appeared in an article in yesterday's USA Today.
"I think we are isolating ourselves, and in so isolating ourselves, I think we're minimizing ourselves," Mr. Daschle said as Mr. Bush headed to London.
"I don't think we are taken as seriously today as we were a few years ago," he added.
White House officials were especially angry that Mr. Daschle singled out the president's relationship with British Prime Minister Tony Blair just before the two world leaders met for several days in England. Mr. Daschle seized on Mr. Blair's recent offer to serve as an intermediary between Mr. Bush and other European leaders.
"Since when did we need a liaison with Europe?" Mr. Daschle asked. "What a commentary about the relationship we now have."
Mr. Daschle said he is "troubled by the fragile relationship that is becoming more and more evident" between the United States and most of its allies. He accused Mr. Bush of turning his back on the Middle East peace process and taking a laissez-faire approach to peacemaking efforts elsewhere in the world.
The Senate's top Democrat also said Mr. Bush has ignored the spread of AIDS in Africa.
He said the president is straining U.S. relations with Russia and European allies by pressing for a national missile defense shield.
Mr. Bush felt compelled to defend his foreign policy. "I think the people of America appreciate the foreign policy positions we've taken," he said. "We're not retreating within our borders."
"But I'll represent the American interests. And secondly, the world leaders have found that I'm a person who speaks plainly and openly about key issues," Mr. Bush said.
"We're willing to listen," he added. "But I will still continue to stand for what I think is right for our country and the world."
In particular, the president took issue with Mr. Daschle's criticism of the administration's missile defense plan. Mr. Bush also took a swipe at those who criticize his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, which the president says would hurt U.S. consumers and businesses.
At a news conference yesterday, Mr. Bush said, "I'm plenty capable of conducting foreign policy for the United States in a way that reflects positively on my nation.
"I happen to believe missile defense is important to keep the world more peaceful," he said. "And I believe we need to work together to reduce greenhouse gases."
In Washington, Mr. Daschle acknowledged he should not have criticized U.S. foreign policy while the president was on foreign soil. But he refused to back away from the substance of his remarks.
"You know, had I given some thought to the fact that the president was departing, I probably would have chosen a different time to make those comments," he said. "There are times and places for evaluations and assessments of the president's record."

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