WASHINGTON – Even before President Bush delivered his televised address Monday, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle began stating their support for the commander-in-chief as the nation moved toward war against Iraq.
"The president has given Saddam Hussein and the United Nations every chance, and both have rejected these opportunities," said House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo. "The time for diplomacy is over."
"At a time like this, all Americans must come together to support our commander-in-chief and our men and women in uniform. We pray for a rapid completion of our forces' mission and their safe return home," said Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., who last October voted against the resolution authorizing military force against Iraq.
"I support our president in this war against terror as he seeks to defend our country against the dangerous threats of Saddam Hussein," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. "There is a proper time and place for vigorous debate, but now is the time for America to speak with one voice."
DeLay is one of several congressional leaders who went to the White House just hours before the president's speech in which he was to declare that Saddam Hussein will be given less than a week to bolt his country and spare it the onslaught of a U.S. military offensive.
Among the other lawmakers attending two separate classified meetings were the Senate majority and minority leaders, the House speaker and minority whip. The other meeting involved the chairmen and ranking Democrats of the oversight committees involved in war planning — Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Intelligence and Appropriations.
Earlier in the day on the floor of the Senate, Senate Armed Services ranking member Carl Levin, D-Mich., said that he found it "unwise" that the president decided to pursue force without a second U.N. resolution.
"By failing to rally the Security Council to a common view, we've lost the best chance to force Saddam Hussein to capitulate because it is likely that only if Saddam Hussein sees a united world at the other end of the barrel, will he see no potential to turn the tide to his favor," Levin said.
As demonstrators chanted for peace outside the Capitol on Monday morning, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle spoke to a labor gathering in Washington, where he seemed to blame impending war on the president, not Iraq's refusal to disarm.
"I'm saddened that the president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war," said Daschle, who voted in October in support of the Iraq resolution.
After his remarks to the labor group, Daschle acknowledged that Saddam is a danger and stood by his original support for war.
"I would vote today as I did back then. We believe as now as we did back then that Saddam poses very serious threats to this country and we have to recognize that," Daschle said.
But even with the backslide, other lawmakers expressed outrage at Daschle's comments.
"I think that's most unfortunate. I even heard that [Daschle] said he hoped that [Bush] didn't lose one American life because of failed diplomacy," said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "I hope we don't lose lives because of the intransigence of the U.N. and the delays caused by France, but I think to put it on a personal basis like that is unconscionable."
"I was disappointed to see Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle's comments regarding the upcoming military action in Iraq," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. said in a statement Tuesday. "Those comments may not undermine the president as he leads us into war, and they may not give comfort to our adversaries, but they come mighty close."
Few ardently anti-war lawmakers chose to speak out, but one hawkish Democrat actually called a news conference to back military action.
"It's time to come together to support our great American men and women in uniform and their commander-in-chief," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., a presidential candidate in 2004 and one of the sponsors of the Iraq resolution
Lieberman skipped the weekend California Democratic Party convention where anti-war sentiments dominated. But other candidates did attend and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who like Lieberman voted for the war resolution, was there and was soundly booed.
Anti-war candidates like former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean were warmly received though their messages were a study in contrasting styles. Kucinich chose to sing America the Beautiful at the podium while Dean screamed that he wanted his country back.
California Democrats actually passed a resolution opposing the war. Another White House hopeful, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, also spoke but managed to escape the boos by steering clear of the Iraq issue.
Fox News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.