- The Washington Times - Friday, October 20, 2006

President Bush yesterday said Democrats became the party of “doubt and defeat” during the fight against communism in the Cold War, and said it shows today in their calls for withdrawal from Iraq.

The president also said terrorists are trying to influence the debate in the United States by making images and video clips of their attacks on U.S. troops available to cable news networks “and opinion leaders throughout the West.”

“The Democrat Party that has evolved from one that was confident in its capacity to help deal with the problems of the world to one that is doubting, today still has an approach of doubt and defeat,” Mr. Bush said in a campaign speech to donors to the National Republican Senatorial Committee at the Mayflower Hotel near the White House.

He said that shift began in 1972, with the nomination of George McGovern to run for president, continued into President Jimmy Carter’s administration and characterized Democrats during Republican President Ronald Reagan’s administration.

“They’d gotten to the point where they didn’t think that we could win,” Mr. Bush said. “Many of their leaders fought the Reagan defense buildup; they fought his Strategic Defense Initiative; they opposed the liberation of Grenada; they didn’t like America’s support for freedom fighters resisting Soviet puppet regimes.”

He contrasted that with Presidents John F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman, who he said “understood the challenges of their time and were willing to confront those challenges with strong leadership.”

Mr. Bush finds himself trying to rally support for the war in Iraq in the face of declining support for both the war and for his own presidency, and with congressional elections little more than two weeks away.

He also is facing more questions from inside his party, as well as from Democrats, over specific tactics and strategy during a violent month for both U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians.

In an interview with the Associated Press yesterday, Mr. Bush acknowledged “tough” times in Iraq, but said the United States is always changing tactics.

The president met yesterday with Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, and is scheduled today to hold a briefing with military commanders and top civilian officials.

Democrats said the current flare-up in violence means Mr. Bush’s strategy is failing.

“The eruptive situation in Iraq reflects that we are reaping the ultimate results of perils of the amateur strategy formulated by our civilian leaders in the early phases of this conflict,” said Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

Mr. Skelton, a respected Democratic voice on military matters, said there needs to be “a major change in strategy that will shift the military mission to the Iraqis, allowing for the redeployment over time of American forces, and that will pressure the Iraqi government to disarm the militias.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate wrote a letter urging Mr. Bush to tell the Iraqis the U.S. commitment is not limitless.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld seemed to agree yesterday, saying in a briefing with reporters that U.S. officials are working with the Iraqi government to try to set a schedule for turning over responsibility for the country’s security.

“It’s their country, they’re going to have to govern it, they’re going to have to provide security for it, and they’re going to have to do it sooner rather than later. And that means they’ve got to take pieces of it as we go along,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Over the past two days, the Bush administration has argued that the increased violence is an attempt to influence U.S. opinion, particularly in the run-up to the midterm elections. Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, spokesman for the multinational force in Iraq, raised that possibility Thursday, as did White House spokesman Tony Snow.

And yesterday Mr. Bush said the terrorists exploit the press by filming their attacks and e-mailing images and video clips “to Middle Eastern cable networks like Al Jazeera, and opinion leaders throughout the West.”

Mr. Snow later pointed to CNN as a network that “has shown pictures of snipers hitting Americans, which was used as a propaganda tool,” as evidence of that claim.

But Mr. Snow said those videos are one-sided, and don’t do justice to the state of the war.

“I’m sure the editors are savvy enough to know that when they get a video like this, it’s designed less to give you a full and complete view of what’s going on in the country than to create a sense of triumphalism for the killers of Americans,” he said. “That’s the intention of that. I think that’s hard to dispute.”

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