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Administration Speeches Put Military in Tough Spot

Speeches by President Bush in recent weeks before military audiences about the Iraq war debate have raised questions about partisan issues being brought up in front of U.S. Armed Forces.

While polls may show Bush lagging in popular approval, the U.S. military views the commander in chief warmly, and he shows a likewise appreciation.

Click in the video box to the right to watch a report by FOX News' Greg Kelly.

"We thought we'd come by and say hello to the Arctic warriors," Bush said at Elmendorf Air Base in Alaska last month.

But lately the president has been saying more than just "hello" to troops. Twice last month in speeches to military audiences, the president attacked Democrats and fired back at their accusations that pre-war intelligence was manipulated by his administration.

"It is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim we misled them and the American people," Bush said.

On Nov. 11 at the Army Depot in Tobyhanna, Pa., Bush told the audience of servicemen and women that some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq have attempted to rewrite the past.

"The national interest is too important for politicians to throw out false charges," he added.

The attacks against critics at military settings may have put troops in the awkward position of undermining their own regulations. A Department of Defense directive doesn't allow service members in uniform to attend "partisan political events."

Questions have been raised about the military's attendance at events where Bush says something like "they spoke the truth then, they're speaking politics now." Several members of the military told FOX News that Bush is inviting the troops to take sides in a partisan debate in his speeches.

"This is a very bad sign," said retired Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar, who led Central Command in the early 1990s and is an administration critic. "This is the sort of thing that you find in other countries where the military and political, certain political parties are aligned."

Bush often appeared with troops in his 2004 campaign. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., endorsed him before hundreds of cheering soldiers.

"Where you have our uniformed members being put in a position where it looks like they're rooting for one side or another is very disconcerting," said Greg Noone, a former Navy lawyer.

Presidents have generally avoided such military settings due to the chance for attacks from opponents.

"They could be divisive," said Stephen Hess, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. "And as commander-in-chief, he represents all the people as does the military defend all the people."

But the president's advisers defend Bush's remarks, saying they are well within bounds.

"They're the ones who are defending our freedom," said White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett. "They should be able to listen to the debate, they should be able to hear both sides."

In recent decades, rank-and-file military members have generally become decidedly more Republican. That's part of the reason why this president is so popular with the troops. Many asked in an unofficial survey told FOX News that they don't have a problem from when or where this president attacks Democrats.