Senate Democrats Criticize Bush, Rumsfeld

By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 29, 2006; 4:22 PM

The White House today downplayed the significance of a new book by Bob Woodward that suggests President Bush has misled the public about the war in Iraq.

"You know, in a lot of ways, the book's certainly cotton candy -- it, kind of, melts on contact," White House spokesman Tony Snow said. "We've read this book before. This tends to repeat what we've seen in a number of other books that have been out this year."

Asked about an assertion in the book, "State of Denial," that American troops are being attacked in Iraq every 15 minutes, on average, Snow said: "I can neither confirm nor deny" because Woodward's source was a classified military report.

Senate Democrats seized upon allegations in the book , which is scheduled to be released on Monday, of deep divisions within the Bush administration over the course of the war and conflicts between what the White House and Pentagon have said publicly and privately about Iraq.

"We've got a continuing state of denial in a president," said Sen. Carl Levin (Mich.) . The book makes clear that Bush "took us to war without a plan, conducted war incompetently," Levin said, appearing at a Capitol Hill news conference with other Senate Democrats.

"And now that absolute stubbornness of President Bush is causing deeper and deeper problems for us because it makes it almost impossible for us to change course. The president of the United States thinks that the course that we are on is just fine," Levin said.

Snow--peppered with questions about Woodward's book at his news briefing this afternoon--said Bush is not "looking at the world through rose-colored glasses."

As proof, Snow cited a news conference in Chicago at which Bush said: "There's been a lot of sacrifice in the war on terror. People have lost life. We've lost obviously a lot of lives here in the homeland and we've lost lives overseas."

Snow also downplayed the notion of conflicts among administration officials.

"I talked with Secretary [Condoleezza] Rice today and her quote was, 'This is ridiculous, and I told that to Woodward,' " Snow said. "In particular, there are allegations of conflicts between Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld and Secretary Rice. The two of them have been having daily phone conversations throughout this administration.

Snow said he was seeking a comment from Rumsfeld, who is traveling. "Rumsfeld is on foreign shores, so he's hard to reach," Snow said.

Snow also disputed the suggestion by Woodward, an assistant managing editor of The Washington Post, that Bush is keeping the reality of the war from the American people.

"I think the American people get a pretty good sense," Snow said. "The American people have a sense that, like, every day there are casualty reports that are public record. . . .The fact is, you've got a war. You have a conflict. People are going after our people."

Levin, a longtime member of the Armed Services Committee, said Woodward writes that in November 2003 Bush did not want any members of his cabinet to acknowledge there was an insurgency in Iraq.

"He doesn't want to see the facts," Levin said. "He doesn't want to acknowledge reality. And if we're going to change the course and change the dynamic in Iraq we've got to end this state of denial."

Standing beside Levin today, Sen. Jack Reed (D.-R.I.) noted that Woodward's book portrays Rumsfeld as being disengaged from the nuts and bolts of occupying and reconstructing Iraq.

"That disengagement has produced extraordinary and adverse consequences for this country," Reed said. "There was no plan, really, to occupy Iraq successfully. There was no direction in leadership from the top levels -- civilian levels -- of this government to do it."

Sen. John F. Kerry (D.-Mass.), who lost the 2004 presidential election to Bush, today cited Woodward's book in a news release that describes what he calls Bush's "failed" policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Bob Woodward says the Administration is in a state of denial. It's worse than that," the Kerry statement said. "The lying needs to end and the incompetents who gave us a Katrina foreign policy have to go. . . . The only clear thing about the president's policy is that it's clearly not working."

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