- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday that President Bush and other Republicans are so corrupt they have weakened the United States.

“The Republican abuse of power comes at great cost to our country, and we can see it in the present state of our union,” the Nevada Democrat said in a speech yesterday to the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “Special interests and the well-connected have grown stronger, while our national security, our economy, our health care and our government have grown weaker.”

Mr. Reid set a series of hurdles for Mr. Bush to clear in next week’s State of the Union address, particularly on political-process reforms.

“In his 2000 campaign, George Bush promised to bring ‘dignity’ to the White House — but we’ve since found that he brought Jack Abramoff instead,” Mr. Reid said. “President Bush needs to quit stonewalling about his White House’s connection to corruption and finally tell us how he’s going to reform Washington.”

While most of the charges about Abramoff seem to center on Congress, Mr. Reid said the president has his own problems — including charges against Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff and the arrest of David Safavian, who ran the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

At the White House, press secretary Scott McClellan said the remarks were “more of the kind of partisan attacks that we see in this city.”

He said that Abramoff, the lobbyist who has pleaded guilty to corruption charges, “has contributed to both Democrats and Republicans alike, whether it was directly or indirectly.”

And Tracey Schmitt, the Republican National Committee’s press secretary, said Mr. Reid mischaracterized the president’s record “in an effort to score cheap political points.”

Mr. Reid directly challenged Republicans’ national-security credentials — the one issue where Republicans believe they run the strongest.

“Republicans run good campaigns, but when it comes to actually governing and protecting Americans, they have a record of incompetence,” he said.

Mr. Reid said he was trying to lay out a framework for what Mr. Bush must do next week in his State of the Union address, including explaining a path to success in Iraq, acknowledging the nation’s poor fiscal state and finding a plan “to fix his bait-and-switch Medicare [prescription] drug program.”

“We need to hear honesty and humility from the commander in chief, not swagger from the campaigner in chief,” Mr. Reid said.

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