- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 11, 2002

LAS VEGAS (AP) The Democratic Party chairman accused President Bush yesterday of exploiting the September 11 attacks for political advantage.
Terry McAuliffe also told party activists that the president had failed to convert all the trust and support that his wartime political capital produced into action on the economy, Social Security, health care and corporate abuse.
"All this trust, all this support. What an opportunity to lead, but in the end to what end? An administration adrift, with polling numbers as their only compass and high approval ratings as their only destination," Mr. McAuliffe told several hundred Democratic leaders to conclude their summer conference.
Firing back, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: "It's a sad commentary on the state of the Democratic Party when they meet and cannot unite around a positive agenda and instead can only resort to negative attacks."
In three days of meetings, Democratic leaders struggled to come to grips with a nagging political problem: How to challenge Mr. Bush's prosecution of the war and handling of the economy without exposing themselves to criticism that they are playing politics with the war on terrorism.
Three months before midterm election, amid jockeying for the 2004 presidential race, Mr. McAuliffe consulted with former President Bill Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt and other party leaders before presenting the tough new message.
The call was reminiscent of President Clinton's 1992 campaign against Mr. Bush's father. Just as Mr. Clinton cast President George H.W. Bush as unresponsive to voter concerns, Mr. McAuliffe said the current president's inaction has created a "leadership void" in Washington.
"Ten summers ago, as Bill Clinton accepted your nomination, he said, 'George Bush, if you won't use our power to help America, step aside. I will.' A decade later, it's a different George Bush, but the same message: Mr. President, you haven't used your power to restore economic growth, to enhance retirement security, to improve health care, to invest in education, to protect the environment," the Democratic leader said.
"So step aside. Because a Democratic Congress is coming in 2002," Mr. McAuliffe said.
But at the same time, he accused Mr. Bush of using the September 11 attacks "to explain away last August's deficits," and he said the president "cynically made 9-11 the cornerstone of the Republican 2002 election strategy."
The actions violated Mr. Bush's pledge not to exploit the war, Mr. McAuliffe said.
Mr. McAuliffe leveled his sharpest attack on the issue of corporate greed, questioning the past business practices of Mr. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney.
"How can he restore confidence on Wall Street when he has engaged in the same practices he condemns today?" Mr. McAuliffe asked.
However, in a deal Republicans have compared to Enron's executives' taking advantage of inflated stock prices by selling shares before the company imploded, Mr. McAuliffe himself made an $18 million profit off a $100,000 investment in Global Crossing.
Mr. McAuliffe sold his stock in the company an owner and operator of undersea fiber-optic cables in the late 1990s. Earlier this year, Global Crossing declared bankruptcy after a month of its stock's being traded for less than a dollar a share.

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