During a fund-raiser for Republican Senate candidate Doug Forrester in Trenton, N.J. this week, President Bush said Democrats in the Senate were “more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people.”
“I will not accept a Department of Homeland Security that does not allow this president and future presidents to better keep the American people secure,” Mr. Bush said.
Daschle responded by accusing the president of politicizing the discussion of the war on terror and possible military intervention in Iraq.
“We ought not politicize this war. We ought not politicize the rhetoric about war and life and death,” Daschle said in a speech on the Senate floor. “You tell those [Democratic senators] who fought in Vietnam and World War II they are not interested in the security of the American people. That is outrageous. Outrageous.”
Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, who lost an arm during World War II, also expressed disappointment.
“It grieves me when my president makes statements that would divide this nation,” he said.
“The president ought to apologize to Sen. Inoue and every veteran who fought in every war who is a Democrat in the United States Senate. He ought to apologize to the American people,” Daschle said.
During his speech, Daschle also made reference to news reports from earlier in the year in which White House political adviser Karl Rove urged members of Congress to “focus on war” during their campaigns.
Daschle also targeted Vice President Dick Cheney for reportedly tying a congressional race to the possible war in Iraq. The Topeka, Kansas Courier-Journal headlined an article on a fund-raiser for GOP House hopeful Adam Taff, “Cheney talks about Iraq at congressional fund-raiser/ Electing Taff would aid war effort.”
“First it was pollsters, then it was White House staff, and then it was the vice president, and all along I was asked, are you concerned about whether or not this war is politicized, and my answer on every occasion was yes,” Daschle said.
Later in the day, Senate Republican leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) responded to Daschle’s statements, saying he was “deeply saddened by the tone and tenor” of the comments.
“Who is the enemy here?” asked Lott. “The President of the United States or Saddam Hussein?”
The verbal fireworks comes as the Senate continues debate over the Homeland Defense Act and as Congress begins to consider the president’s resolution authorizing the use of force to enforce United Nations resolutions concerning Iraq.
“I think that Sen. Daschle needs to cool the rhetoric. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Lott said. “We need to do it in a nonpartisan way. Accusations of that type are not helpful.”