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Bush Attacks 'Party of Cut and Run'

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By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 29, 2006

BIRMINGHAM, Sept. 28 -- In his sharpest partisan attack of this election campaign, President Bush denounced Democratic critics of his Iraq policy on Thursday and said "the party of FDR and the party of Harry Truman has become the party of cut and run."

Seeking to rebut Democrats who say a new intelligence report indicates that Iraq is fueling terrorism rather than helping to counter it, Bush said voters face a choice "between two parties with two different attitudes on this war on terror."

Republicans "understand the nature of the enemy," he said. "We know the enemy wants to attack us again," whereas Democrats "offer nothing but criticism and obstruction and endless second-guessing."

Despite assertions in a recently declassified intelligence report that the war in Iraq has become "a cause celebre" that is inspiring new jihadists and fueling anti-Americanism, Bush restated his position that the country is safer since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. Absent the war, he said, extremists would find other excuses to attack Americans and other Westerners.

He said that leaving Iraq before that country is stabilized would embolden terrorists while exposing the United States to economic blackmail and the prospect of even-more-lethal threats.

"The greatest danger is not that America's presence in Iraq is drawing new recruits to the terrorist cause," he said. "The greatest danger is that an American withdrawal from Iraq would embolden the terrorists and help them find new recruits to carry out even more destructive attacks on the American homeland."

Bush's remarks added fresh fuel to an escalating partisan fight over conclusions from the National Intelligence Estimate. Bush grudgingly released portions of the report on Tuesday after some of its contents were leaked to news media outlets.

The report, which was completed in April, says the number of potential terrorists is growing as the war in Iraq enflames radical Muslims and fans hatred of America. The assessment also says that although anti-terrorism efforts have been largely successful in crippling al-Qaeda, the overall terrorist threat is becoming more diffuse, making it harder to identify potential terrorists and prevent attacks.

The document concludes that the factors fueling the growth in jihadism outweigh its vulnerabilities, meaning the terrorist threat is likely to grow. The paper reflects the collective judgment of the nation's 16 intelligence agencies.

"George Bush has no credibility left on national security," said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "No matter how many stump speeches he gives on the campaign trail, the American people can see the damage his tough talk has done to America's safety."

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, accused Bush of ignoring key facts in the intelligence document. "When the president pays no attention to the findings of 16 nonpartisan, non-political intelligence agencies in our government, there's only more trouble ahead for our county and our soldiers," he said.

Speaking before a large and enthusiastic audience at a fundraising luncheon for Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (R), Bush attempted to turn criticism of his Iraq policy into a cudgel.


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