CHARLESTON, S.C. – Two of the Democratic presidential candidates called for the resignation of embattled CIA director George Tenet (search) on Wednesday as the rest of the field faulted President Bush for misleading the public about Iraq.
"The president has to accept some responsibility," Joe Lieberman told supporters during a campaign appearance. "This president seems to be saying, 'The buck never stops here."'
The Connecticut senator spoke as Tenet testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee (search) about questionable intelligence the White House used to justify war with Iraq. Bush's claimed in his State of the Union speech that Iraq sought uranium (search) from Africa -- a statement apparently based on a series of documents now known to be forgeries.
Tenet accepted responsibility for allowing the reference to get in the speech, though officials with the National Security Council, the State Department and the White House staff were also involved in drafting the address.
Lieberman's rival, Howard Dean, said he has maintained for several days that Tenet should leave.
"The reason the director should step aside is that he is now part of the shifting of the blame," the former Vermont governor said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Dean, an outspoken opponent of the U.S.-led war against Iraq, argued that Tenet shouldn't receive all the blame, and faulted the National Security Agency, State Department and the vice president's office.
Lieberman, one of the most forceful supporters of the war among the nine Democratic candidates, said Bush must be held accountable for misleading the public about his justification for military action. Democrats have suggested that Tenet has become the administration's fall guy, taking the blame to shield Bush from political fallout.
"If, in fact, it was his fault, then George Tenet has to be held responsible," Lieberman said during a campaign appearance at Hyman's Seafood restaurant.
In an interview afterward, Lieberman said he would seek Tenet's resignation.
"The White House doesn't accept responsibility. Tenet steps forward and accepts responsibility. And then the president says he hasn't lost confidence in the CIA. Something's wrong here," Lieberman said.
"I guess I'd say under these circumstances, if I was president and I was put in a position to make a statement in a State of the Union to the American people that was not truthful and the CIA director came forward and accepted responsibility, I'd ask him to leave," the senator said.
The nine Democratic candidates have seized on the misleading intelligence to attack Bush on his greatest political strength -- the war on terrorism -- and raise larger questions about his credibility on domestic and foreign policy issues.
The White House dismissed the criticism as revisionist history from several Democrats who last fall backed the congressional resolution given Bush the authority to wage war. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the administration does not have a credibility problem.
"The president has been very straightforward about this from the beginning. He laid out a very compelling case, a very clear case," McClellan told reporters.
In a little-noticed Virginia appearance on Tuesday, Lieberman turned up the pressure on Tenet.
"Unlike the current president, I would not continue to have confidence in my CIA director, and would ask him to resign," Lieberman said. He added: "This president ought to hold someone accountable for causing him to say something that was not true."
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, during a campaign appearance in New York, focused on what he called Bush's credibility gap on national security as did John Edwards, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Bob Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
In a statement, Graham said simply, "we do not have a George Tenet problem, we have a George Bush problem," and he called on Bush to "come clean with the truth. Unfortunately, he continues to display an arrogant pattern of hiding information from the American people and ducking questions that need to be answered."
Edwards, the North Carolina senator, told reporters outside the committee room that Tenet has accepted responsibility, "but at the end of the day, the president when he speaks, has to take responsibility for what he said."