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Rep. Boehner: Dems protect terrorists
Yahoo News/Reuters
By Joanne Kenen
September 12, 2006

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top Democrats on Tuesday accused President George W. Bush of exploiting the September 11 anniversary to boost his faltering Iraq war policy and his party's sagging popularity in an election year.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Bush should have tried to recapture a spirit of national unity in a televised Oval Office address on Monday night.

Reid told reporters Democrats had been so confident the Republican Bush would be nonpartisan that they had not sought equal time on television to offer their party's response.

"Sadly, it was a missed opportunity for President Bush, who apparently was more consumed by staying the course in Iraq and playing election year politics," Reid said, accusing Bush of once again trying to "conflate and blur the war in Iraq with the response to 9/11."

"The American people deserved an opportunity to grieve and come together as a nation last night. Instead President Bush gave them partisan and inaccurate rhetoric," Pelosi said.

With poll showing the war to be unpopular, Democrats are widely expected to pick up seats in both the House and Senate in November's congressional elections, possibly seizing a majority from the Republicans in one or both chambers.

Bush had raised partisan ire by saying in his Oval Office address that "whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone."

"The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad," he said in the address to mark five years to the suicide attacks by al Qaeda hijackers that killed nearly 3,000 people.


Bush has tried to frame the elections as a debate over national security. Democrats counter that the Iraq war is a distraction from the war on terrorism rather than a part of it and question whether America is any safer now.

Democrats again put forward their own legislative agenda on security, including $4.1 billion more in protecting ports, chemical and nuclear plants and helping improve the emergency communication capacity of first responders.

Republicans struck back, saying it was the Democrats who had injected politics into a national day of remembrance.

"I listen to my Democratic friends and I wonder if they're more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people," House Majority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters.

"The president took pains yesterday not to be partisan, and that was the appropriate thing to do," insisted White House spokesman Tony Snow. He said it was the Democrats who seized on the September 11 anniversary to talk about Iraq.

But Democrats said they had given Bush unstinting support in the war in Afghanistan and the still fruitless hunt for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Iraq, they said, was a mass of mistakes that had not made the United States safer.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland)

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