Published March 22, 2006
LAS VEGAS – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid called President Bush "dangerously incompetent" on Wednesday and said the administration ought to be doing more to prevent increasing sectarian violence in Iraq.
"Where is (Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice? Why isn't she over in the Middle East, as the chief diplomat of this country should be, trying to get the political forces to form a government over there?" Reid told The Associated Press.
Reid said the U.S. was "failing three different ways in Iraq." Military efforts have lagged, the economy is crippled by decreased oil and electricity production, and attempts to form a representative government are behind schedule, he said.
The White House did not return calls seeking comment. Rice last visited Iraq in November and she is currently in the Bahamas meeting with Caribbean trade bloc members. She also traveled this month to Australia, South America and Asia, and visited the Middle East in February.
Reid criticized Bush for a series of recent appearances in key political states in which the president defended his Iraq war policies.
"Why isn't he spending time with these leaders in the Middle East trying to get this government formed?" Reid said.
Reid also criticized Bush's statement Tuesday that his successor in the White House would likely be responsible for deciding when U.S. troops leave Iraq.
"To me it shows how dangerously incompetent he is," Reid said. "'Stay the course, mission accomplished, bring 'em on' — the American people are sick of that. We need to change course in Iraq. ... I think the president burying his head in the sand is not going to do the trick."
Reid described conditions in Iraq as "low-grade civil war."
"I don't know how you define civil war. We know they're killing an average of 50 Iraqis a day. At least it's a low-grade civil war," he said.
Republican National Committee spokesman Tucker Bounds said the situation in Iraq is getting the "utmost attention from the president and Republican leadership," and he accused Reid of blocking efforts to fight the war on terror and wanting to "cut and run."
"Harry Reid is the figurehead of a party that stood in steadfast obstruction to virtually all the tools that are being used to keep the American people safe and being used to help win the war on terror," Bounds said.