WASHINGTON – Congressional Democrats promise to "eliminate" Usama bin Laden and ensure a "responsible redeployment of U.S. forces" from Iraq in 2006 in an election-year national security policy statement.
In the position paper to be announced Wednesday, Democrats say they will double the number of special forces and add more spies, which they suggest will increase the chances of finding Al Qaeda's elusive leader. They do not set a deadline for when all of the 132,000 American troops now in Iraq should be withdrawn.
"We're uniting behind a national security agenda that is tough and smart and will provide the real security George Bush has promised but failed to deliver," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday.
His counterpart in the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the Democrats are offering a new direction — "one that is strong and smart, which understands the challenges America faces in a post 9/11 world, and one that demonstrates that Democrats are the party of real national security."
The latest in a series of party policy statements for 2006, the Democrats' national security platform comes seven months before voters decide who will control the House and Senate and as Democrats seek to cut into the public perception that the Republicans are stronger on national security.
Bush's job approval ratings are in the mid- to high-30s, and Democrats consistently have about a 10-point lead over Republicans when people are asked who they want to see in control of Congress.
With the public skeptical of the Iraq war and Republicans and Democrats alike questioning Bush's war policies, Democrats aim to force Republicans to distance themselves from Bush on Iraq and national security or rubber-stamp what Democrats contend is a failed policy.
"The Democrats are going to take back the security issue," said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Republicans have vowed not to let that happen. They characterized the Democrats' platform as tough election-year talk that isn't backed up by the party's record.
"This is more of the same from the party that opposes this president's effort to keep our country safe," said Tracey Schmitt, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman. "The bottom line is while this president campaigns against the terrorists, Democrats remain focused on campaigning against this president."
Overall, the Democratic position paper attempts to make the case that the Bush administration's "inadequate planning and incompetent policies have failed to make Americas as safe as we should be."
It covers party policy positions on homeland security, the war on terror, the military, Iraq and energy security, but it contains many of the same proposals Democrats have offered over the past year.
The platform also lacks specific details of how Democrats plan to capture bin Laden, the Al Qaeda mastermind who has evaded U.S. forces in the more than four years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
For months, House and Senate Democrats have tried to craft a comprehensive position on national security, but they have splintered, primarily over Iraq.
Republicans have sought to use that division to their own political advantage, claiming that Democrats simply attack the president and his fellow Republicans without presenting proposals of their own.