Skip to comments.Daschle Demands Apology by President Over Statement
Posted on 09/25/2002 7:18:08 PM PDT by Pokey78
WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 Pent-up partisan rancor over domestic security legislation and Iraq policy erupted today when Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic of South Dakota who is majority leader, demanded an apology from President Bush for saying that Democrats were "not interested in the security of the American people."
In an emotional speech on the Senate floor, Mr. Daschle seized on Mr. Bush's statement on Monday that the Senate, where Democrats favor protecting workers' rights in the proposed Homeland Security Department, "is more interested in special interests in Washington."
Mr. Daschle took offense, saying: "That is wrong. We ought not politicize this war. We ought not politicize the rhetoric about war and life and death."
He added, his voice growing raspy: "You tell those who fought in Vietnam and World War II they are not interested in the security of the American people," because they are Democrats. "That is outrageous."
Republicans immediately countered that Mr. Daschle had taken the Mr. Bush's remarks out of context and was politicizing the debate himself. The White House and Republicans insisted that the president's criticisms addressed just the fight over labor regulations that has stalled legislation for the proposed department, not Iraq policy.
The spokesman for the White House, Ari Fleischer, said it was "time for everybody concerned to take a deep breath, to stop finger-pointing and to work well together."
Members of each party agreed that the eruption could slow the drive for a joint Congressional resolution on the use of force in Iraq, as well as forming the department.
Progress on drafting a United Nations resolution that would give Iraq two months to demonstrate a willingness to cooperate with weapons inspectors was also slowed by divisions in the administration and among Western allies. [Page A14.]
Mr. Daschle said the issues of Iraq and domestic security were intertwined, and he reiterated his view in a floor statement in late afternoon, saying that he knew full well the context of Mr. Bush's statement.
"What context is there that legitimizes an accusation like that?" Mr. Daschle asked. "This is politicization pure and simple."
The Senate Republican leader, Trent Lott of Mississippi, dismissed Mr. Daschle's speech as shrill and "over the top." Mr. Lott said he was "deeply saddened by the tenor and the tone" of Mr. Daschle's remarks and asked:
"Who is the enemy here? The president of the United States or Saddam Hussein? I think it's time we get a grip on things. We've got a lot of work to do."
The House minority leader, Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, one of the administration's chief Democratic backers on Iraq, said that domestic security and Iraq were part of the "same clump" of issues and that Mr. Bush's comments represented at least "an implied, if not a direct, effort to pull these issues into the political realm."
Mr. Gephardt said he had called the White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, to urge that the political temperature be lowered.
Mr. Daschle's spoke as Democratic frustration grew that Iraq policy was now the dominant concern among voters as the Congressional elections approach. For weeks, many Democrats have sought to balance support for Mr. Bush on Iraq and domestic security while shifting the focus of the midterm elections to the bread-and-butter issues of the economy, health care and Social Security.
Mr. Daschle has been seen by some in his caucus as being too cooperative with the White House on Iraq. Former Vice President Al Gore's speech on Monday questioning Mr. Bush's course raised the pressure, members said. But until today, Democrats have been hard-pressed to change the subject without looking political and potentially weak on national defense.
For their part, Republicans have been eager to benefit from the high approval ratings that Mr. Bush has held since the Sept. 11 attacks and his campaign against terrorism, as long as they are not seen as exploiting the issue for political gain.
Dozens of Democratic senators sat rapt as Mr. Daschle tried to use Mr. Bush's own words to argue that Republicans were seeking political advantage over Iraq. In his speech this morning, the typically soft-spoken Mr. Daschle singled out Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii, a highly decorated World War II veteran who lost his right arm in Italy.
"You tell Senator Inouye he's not interested in the security of the American people," said Mr. Daschle, who has for weeks stepped gingerly around the issue of whether the administration had political motives for emphasizing the need for action against Iraq. "This has got to end."
In recent days, the president has used several similar formulations to criticize Senate Democrats, in particular, for seeking to deprive him of the flexibility that he says he needs to discipline and promote workers in the proposed department. At a fund-raiser here tonight for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Mr. Bush backed off from denouncing the entire Senate over the domestic security legislation.
The president said, "Some senators not all senators, but some senators believe it is best to try to micromanage the process, believe the best way to secure the homeland is to have a thick book of regulations which will hamstring this administration."
At his press briefing, Mr. Fleischer was repeatedly asked whether Mr. Bush stood by his flat statement that the Senate was "not interested" in the security of the American people and declined to give a direct answer, saying only, "If homeland security does not pass in the Senate, it will be true that the Senate will not have acted to protect the American people's security."
The national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said tonight in an interview on "The News Hour With Jim Lehrer": "The president said that some Senators had had a tendency to put special interests ahead of national security, and he went on to praise Democrats and Republicans who were pulling together on the security issues that face the American people. So there simply isn't any politicization here."
Mr. Daschle's aides and other Democratic members said his remarks grew out of anger at Mr. Bush's comments. Other senators suggested that the remarks reflected the political reality that Mr. Bush had left himself open.
"There is a growing feeling in our caucus that instead of just saying yes to whatever the president wants, there should be questions asked," one Democrat said. "I think this does alter the dynamic on passage of any resolution, because it's become clearer that for the White House political considerations were at least part of the timing, and the president's remarks stepped over a line. We have to worry now that we don't overstep it, too."
A CBS News poll released on Tuesday said that four in 10 Americans said Congress had not asked enough questions about Mr. Bush's Iraq policy. Bare majorities said that the United States should follow the recommendations of the United Nations and that Congress should wait to vote until the United Nations had acted.
After his floor speech, Mr. Daschle told reporters that the president's comments and some he attributed to Vice President Dick Cheney at a recent appearance were complicating efforts to reach agreement on a resolution against Iraq and the entire Congressional agenda.
"It just sheds great doubt about what their intentions are," Mr. Daschle said. "It really brings to question their real motivation here. Are they extending these negotiations because they want to move this vote closer to the election?"
How did this kernel of truth get into this Times article?
Someone up there is going to pay hell for it.
Hey, you callin' me a turd?
How often do you ignore our propaganda?
1. All the time.
2. Most of the time.
3. I can't ignore it, because I don't read it.
It doesn't take a very big one to swallow you up.
Maybe he should have called daschle instead! Pres Bush must have hit a nerve the way the RATs are acting -- Seems Zell Miller gets it but not the daschle/clinton/gephardt RATs!
And be sure to be more than 5'2" in height.
Oh and maybe the shrinks can help Tommy discover why he doesn't care about the security of the American people.
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