WASHINGTON – Condoleezza Rice (search), the White House national security adviser, is giving a flurry of speeches in political battleground states in the closing days of the campaign, bringing allegations from Sen. John Kerry's (search) camp that she is injecting herself into the presidential race.
"George Bush will go to any length to cling to power, even if it means diverting his national security adviser from doing her job," Sen. John Edwards (search), Kerry's running mate, said Wednesday. "It's time for a fresh start with a White House whose priority will be to focus on doing everything to make our country safer — period."
Rice is scheduled to give speeches in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida over the next week. In recent days, she has appeared in Ohio, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington state. Until May, Rice had not made any speeches in states considered political battlegrounds.
The White House defended her appearances.
"She doesn't involve herself in the political campaign," said communications director Dan Bartlett. "But we're a nation at war, we're a nation that has troops in harm's way and the president has a foreign policy staff that helps explain the actions we are taking. And it's a totally appropriate role."
Added James Wilkinson, deputy national security adviser, "Only those who think nothing worthwhile happens outside of Washington would attack the national security adviser for accepting invitations to discuss national security policy with nonpartisan audiences in America's heartland."
Former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, speaking on behalf of the Kerry campaign, said Wednesday he was surprised to see Rice giving so many speeches "which are obviously timed to coincide with the national elections."
"I'm afraid that represents, at least in my book, excessive politicization of an office which is unusually sensitive," Brzezinski, who served in the Carter administration, said during a conference call with reporters.
Records provided by the White House show Rice has given 68 speeches since the beginning of the administration four years ago and that most of them were in the Washington, D.C., area. Traditionally, the national security adviser does not become involved in politics in an overt way.
"For all its fearmongering on the war on terror, this White House has a greater commitment to its political security than to our national security," Edwards said in Canton, Ohio. "The fact is that the violence in Iraq is spiraling out of control, Osama bin Laden remains at large and North Korea and Iran have increased their nuclear capabilities. With all this going on, Condi Rice shouldn't take the time to go on a campaign trip for George Bush."