Former House speaker Newt Gingrich said yesterday that the Bush administration has gone "off a cliff" in postwar Iraq and that "the White House has to get a grip on this."

In a blunt critique by a leading Republican, Gingrich said the administration has failed "to put the Iraqis at the center of this equation. . . . The key to defeating the bad guys is having enough good guys who are Iraqis," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The administration did not send enough Iraqi Americans there after the war, Gingrich said. On the main online site of the U.S. occupying authority, he added, "up until last week you didn't see a single Iraqi on that Web page," and now there is only one.

White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. defended the administration's policy. "I think things are going very well in a very tough situation in Iraq. . . . Newt Gingrich is not all-knowing," he said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, hit three Sunday talk shows and said she agreed with Gingrich. She blamed the administration for "miscalculation" and "inept planning" in Iraq, as she put it on ABC's "This Week."

"I do think we need more troops" in Iraq, Clinton said. She said she believes in giving the chief executive the authority to wage war, as her husband did in Bosnia and Kosovo. "But I regret the way the president has used the authority."

Clinton dismissed complaints that she should not have criticized President Bush while in Iraq and blamed a "right-wing apparatus." Clinton said she was merely responding to questions from U.S. troops. "I'm not going to lie to an American soldier," she said on CBS.

On domestic politics, Clinton assailed the administration for "radical ideas" such as eliminating overtime payments for millions of workers. "I thought they wanted to undo everything Bill Clinton had done," she said on NBC. "I took that a little personally. . . . Then I realized they're taking aim at the New Deal."

Clinton laughingly insisted on each program that she would not accept the Democratic presidential nomination, or even the vice presidential nod, in 2004. She declined to comment on the candidacy of former Vermont governor Howard Dean, saying she is not taking sides in the primaries.

Dean, interviewed on "Fox News Sunday," defended his recent statements in New Hampshire that he needed to "teach" Bush about defense because the president "doesn't understand what it takes to defend this country, that you have to have high moral purpose."

"There are not very many countries, after three years of George W. Bush's presidency, where people want to be like us anymore," Dean said. "That is what I mean by the loss of high moral purpose." He also said Bush had backed off efforts to cut combat pay for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dean was asked about his comments on National Public Radio's "The Diane Rehm Show" last week concerning the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He said then: "The most interesting theory that I've heard so far -- which is nothing more than a theory, it can't be proved -- is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis."

Dean said yesterday that "I can't imagine the president of the United States doing that," but added that Bush needs to "give the information" to the commission investigating the attacks. Asked why he raised the theory, Dean said: "Because there are people who believe that. We don't know what happened in 9/11."

Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie later called Dean "reckless and irresponsible" for "floating this incendiary theory."