- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2003

Ed Gillespie says his job as the Republican National Committee’s new chairman will be to “push back” whenever the Democrats attack President Bush, and he intends to be very combative during the next 15 months.

Since Mr. Bush picked him last month to be the next RNC chief, the veteran press secretary and party strategist has been punching back hard. In a series of counterattacks, Mr. Gillespie has called Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts a hypocrite for his criticisms of Mr. Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq, accused the Democrats of “playing naked politics” with the war to pander to their party’s antiwar base, and said their presidential candidates were “tripping all over themselves” to get to the left of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

“Their politics may appeal to their antiwar base, but their lack of policy won’t make our country more secure,” Mr. Gillespie said in one of about two dozen statements he has released in the past few weeks and e-mailed to hundreds of reporters and news bureaus.

He says that while Mr. Bush has “changed the tone in Washington” by staying above the political fray of charges and countercharges, the RNC chairman’s job every day is to get into the thick of the fight and beat up the president’s adversaries.

“As party chairman, I think I have an obligation to push back and respond to the inaccuracies from the other party. My job is to make sure the record gets set straight about what the Democrats are doing and saying,” he said in an interview.

Mr. Gillespie, who has honed his skills as a press secretary in the House Republican leadership and at the RNC under former Chairman Haley Barbour, doesn’t mince words about the Democratic presidential contenders who want Mr. Bush’s job.

He said the Democrats “have crossed the line” of acceptable political discourse on Iraq and suggests that they take pleasure when things are not going well with the administration’s efforts to rebuild the country, restore order and root out remaining Saddam Hussein loyalists.

“I would not go so far as to say that they are wishing for defeat, but I think they are taking some satisfaction in the misfortunes of others,” especially when any “progress in Iraq” may suffer a brief setback by guerrilla actions there, he said.

“You know, ‘fear and loathing’ was once a catchy title for a book, but it’s a lousy way to play politics,” Mr. Gillespie said.

He calls Mr. Kerry, seen by the White House as the likely Democratic nominee, “a consummate Massachusetts liberal” who is “running away from his record.”

When Mr. Kerry said in a speech Wednesday that the United States “cannot afford to leave the front lines of home security without the resources they need,” Mr. Gillespie put out a statement noting that “this is a candidate who voted to cut $2.6 billion in intelligence funds as a member of the Intelligence Committee, including $80 million for the FBI.”

“Candidate Kerry’s political rhetoric is an indictment of his Senate record. His policy approach is based solely on hindsight, reflecting an inability to look ahead to the needs of securing our homeland and winning the war against terror,” Mr. Gillespie said.

“And now he wants the American people to think he’s a champion of homeland preparedness? Come on,” he added.

Mr. Gillespie became a senior adviser to the RNC on June 16 and will be formally elected chairman on Friday, replacing Marc Racicot, who has become chairman of Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign.

Mr. Gillespie’s hard-charging, take-no-prisoners style is a sharp contrast to Mr. Racicot’s low-key, less-confrontational approach. And Republican campaign strategists said yesterday that the changing of the guard comes just at the right time as the presidential campaign begins to heat up.

“Ed is a leader for battle, a different type of leader you put into the field when you are ready to engage the enemies, versus a general you have in place when you are just starting. Marc’s role was to provide statesmanlike leadership to a political organization of a sitting president,” said party adviser Bill Dal Col.

“Ed’s been through the political wars and knows how to punch and counterpunch, and that’s the level at which this fight should be fought out,” Mr. Dal Col said.

“With the growing attacks on Bush, and the ink and air time the Democrats are getting, this calls for a very different response from the RNC, and Gillespie is the perfect guy to do this,” said former RNC Chairman Rich Bond.

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