- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2006

President Bush yesterday said Democrats have ditched the tradition of the great war-fighting presidents of the 20th century to become “the party of cut and run,” and accused them of using leaked excerpts of a recent intelligence estimate to mislead voters before midterm elections.

In his most politically biting speech yet in this campaign, Mr. Bush slammed his political opponents for not having an Iraq policy, then warned against embracing the conclusions of some top members of their party who say Iraq is a distraction from the war on terror.

“Five years after 9/11, the worst attack on American homeland in our history, the Democrats offer nothing but criticism and obstruction, and endless second-guessing,” Mr. Bush said while campaigning for Alabama Gov. Bob Riley in Birmingham. “The party of FDR and the party of Harry Truman has become the party of cut and run.”

Mr. Bush also spoke at length about the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), leaked portions of which were published over the weekend, prompting the president on Tuesday to release a longer declassified version that painted a mixed picture of the war.

“Truth is, the Democrats are using the NIE to mislead the American people and justify their policy of withdrawal from Iraq,” he said.

Democrats taunted back, saying Mr. Bush has a chance to prove himself right by releasing the entire intelligence document.

“If George Bush is so confident that his national security policies are working, he should release the entire National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism and let the American people decide for themselves,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.

He and five other top Senate Democrats wrote a letter to John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, asking him to speed up a planned intelligence study that focuses solely on Iraq.

Democrats hope the NIE information helps them regain the initiative and refocus the debate on Iraq after Mr. Bush’s successful September, during which his series of speeches on the broader war on terror boosted both his approval ratings and support for Republicans’ job in handling terror.

Last weekend, the New York Times and The Washington Post reported on a portion of the NIE that said the war in Iraq is prompting more people to become jihadists. That boosted Democrats’ argument that the war in Iraq is a mistake.

“They’ve gone from shock and awe to an American public shocked at how awful the situation in Iraq is,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Democrat and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Rather than heed the warnings in the NIE, President Bush politicized this discussion and the Republican Congress has stood on the sidelines.”

But the administration released a broader version this week that also notes that defeating jihadist fighters in Iraq would be a demoralizing blow for terrorists worldwide — boosting Mr. Bush’s argument that Iraq is central in the broader war on terror.

While not disputing the assessment that Iraq is spawning more terrorists, the president said it is just the latest reason terrorists have given for fighting against the United States.

“Our troops were not in Iraq when the terrorists first attacked the World Trade Center. They were not in Iraq when they blew up our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. They were not in Iraq when they bombed the USS Cole,” he said.

The next fight for the administration may be Bob Woodward’s upcoming book, “State of Denial,” due out next week. In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” — which is owned by the same company that owns the book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster — Mr. Woodward says the administration is withholding information that the war in Iraq will get worse next year.

“The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon [saying], ‘Oh, no, things are going to get better,’” Mr. Woodward says, according to CBS.

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