- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2005

President Bush continued his aggressive defense of the war in Iraq yesterday, warning that the “terrorists still want to hit us again” and comparing democracy building in Baghdad to Japan’s transformation after World War II.

At the same time, Mr. Bush sharpened his criticism of Senate Democrats, who until a deal was reached last night, had been blocking an extension of the Patriot Act.

The president charged that a failure to renew the act, which the Senate did last night, would have weakened the country’s ability to defend itself against “brutal killers.”

In remarks at the White House and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, where he handed out medals to wounded Marines, Mr. Bush stepped up his defense of the U.S. military’s role in Iraq in campaign-style rhetoric that Republican officials say has boosted his job-approval poll numbers by 10 points in the last month.

Recalling his father’s World War II service as a Navy pilot, Mr. Bush told a gathering of naval medical personnel that Japan’s postwar transformation into a U.S. ally was being repeated in Iraq.

“One of my predecessors, Harry Truman, recognized the power of freedom to transform an enemy into an ally. That’s what happened. Japan adopted a Japanese-style democracy and … democracies don’t fight each other,” Mr. Bush said.

Earlier yesterday, in his strongest attack on Senate Democrats since they began filibustering the Patriot Act’s reauthorization, the president singled out Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, whom he said had “recently boasted about killing the Patriot Act.”

“This obstruction is inexcusable,” Mr. Bush said.

“The senators obstructing the Patriot Act need to understand that the expiration of this vital law will endanger America and will leave us in a weaker position in the fight against brutal killers,” he said.

Since the Iraq war, the president has made it a Christmas season practice to visit troops recovering from injuries at area military hospitals, and yesterday he spent several hours going from bed to bed in the center’s intensive-care unit, awarding Purple Hearts.

“What we’re seeing today is brave troops and committed citizens who are not only determined to chase down the killers and bring them to justice before they hurt us again, but understand that by spreading freedom and democracy, we’re battling an ideology of darkness with an ideology of hope,” he said.

The president’s continued focus yesterday on Iraq and the war on terrorism played to issues that his political advisers and Republican Party chairmen around the country credit for the latest surge in his job-approval numbers.

“The speeches he’s given recently explaining his policies on Iraq have been very effective. He’s taking his message directly to the people, and it’s had an impact,” Wisconsin’s Republican state chairman, Richard Graber, said yesterday.

“I hear it in the heartland. I talk to the activists, and people are saying, ‘Keep swinging, Mr. President,’” he said.

Mr. Bush’s rise in the polls “is good news,” said Ohio Republican Chairman Bob Bennett. “The president is focusing Americans on the reasons why we’re in Iraq. He’s been very forceful recently, reinforcing the message of why we’re there and what’s at stake.”

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