President Bush yesterday hammered Sen. John Kerry for disparaging Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, whom Mr. Bush described as a hero in need of America’s help, not contempt.
“This brave man came to our country to talk about how he’s risking his life for a free Iraq, which helps America, and Senator Kerry held a press conference to question Prime Minister Allawi’s credibility,” Mr. Bush told an audience in Janesville, Wis.
“You can’t lead this country if your ally in Iraq feels like you question his credibility,” he added. “The message ought to be to the Iraqi people: We support you.”
On Thursday, Mr. Kerry scoffed at assurances by the president and Mr. Allawi that Iraq would be able to hold elections in January. The Massachusetts Democrat also dismissed Mr. Allawi’s optimistic speech to a joint session of Congress, which gave him a hero’s welcome.
“The prime minister and the president are here obviously to put their best face on the policy,” Mr. Kerry said in a press conference after Mr. Allawi’s speech. “But the fact is that CIA estimates, the reporting, the ground operations and the troops all tell a different story.”
Yesterday, an indignant Mr. Bush defended Mr. Allawi, reminding Americans that the former Iraqi exile had once been attacked by ax-wielding assassins sent by Saddam Hussein.
“He came to our country to thank the American people,” the president said. “He came to our country to thank the moms and dads and husbands and wives of those who have sacrificed for his freedom and America’s security.”
He added: “And my opponent chose to criticize the prime minister of Iraq.”
The president’s rebuke did not faze Mr. Kerry’s running mate, Sen. John Edwards, who suggested that Mr. Allawi was merely parroting the president’s lies.
“The best lesson for any fledgling democracy is that leaders should tell the truth, to always be straight with the people,” Mr. Edwards said. “Prime Minister Allawi’s trip to the United States was filled with all the wrong lessons, lessons from an administration that just can’t seem to tell the truth when it comes to Iraq.”
Vice President Dick Cheney, who spent yesterday campaigning in Louisiana, also defended Mr. Allawi.
“I was appalled at the complete lack of respect Senator Kerry showed for this man of courage when he rushed out to hold a press conference and attack the prime minister yesterday right after his speech,” Mr. Cheney said.
“Iyad Allawi is our ally,” he added. “John Kerry is trying to tear him down and to trash all the good that has been accomplished, and his words are destructive.”
Mr. Cheney suggested the prime minister was referring to Mr. Kerry when he warned against pessimism during a joint press conference with Mr. Bush on Thursday.
“When political leaders sound the siren of defeatism in the face of terrorism, it only encourages more violence,” Mr. Allawi said in the Rose Garden.