Democrats, Bush Spar Over Terror Agenda

A day after President Bush charged Democrats with undermining the War on Terror by conducting a "cut and run" campaign, party leaders fired back Friday with a claim that the president is "out of touch with reality."

"To listen to the president this morning shows that once again, that he is in denial," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said. "He is out of touch with reality when it comes to what needs to be done to fight and complete the War on Terror.

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"The Democrats take seriously our responsiblity to provide for the common defense ... to protect the American people ... and to destroy the terrorist networks of the world," Pelosi continued. "We know that job is worth it by what is happening in Iraq."

Pelosi was joined in her response by other ranking Democrats, who said the president's crticism was off the mark.

"This administration cut and run from the truth," Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry said, repeating the widely reported phrase used Thursday by Bush during a stinging speech in Birmingham, Ala.

"Every day this administration refuses to face reality is another day they play into the hands of the terrorists. President Bush needs to start telling the truth, and acting on it," Kerry said.

Pelosi added that "'cut and run' is no more true than was 'mission accomplished,'" a reference to Bush's remark on an aircraft carrier deck in 2003 to signal the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., accused the administration of "playing politics" with the War on Terror.

"The terrorist threat is growing more dangerous, but instead of addressing it, we are playing politics with the issue [and] passing laws that won't make us safer," Harman said. "There is a better way, and it starts with what Bob Woodward's new book calls ending the 'State of Denial,' " referring to a book due out next week that is highly critical of the Bush administration's handling of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Harman said the president's argument that "you do not create terrorism by fighting terrorism" falls flat.

"That's a good soundbyte, but respectfully, Mr. President, your own intelligence professionals have concluded that your failed strategy in Iraq has exacerbated the terrorist threat," Harman said.

Bush, meanwhile, continued his attack on Democratic naysayers, this time at a speech Friday to the Reserve Officers Association in Washington. Though his comments were not as pointed as those made a day earlier in Alabama, both speeches charged critics with trying to use the War on Terror for political gains as the November elections draw near.

"In order to win a war, in order to win the ideological struggle of the 21st Century, it is important for this country to have a clear strategy, and change tactics to meet the conditions on the ground, not try to constantly respond to the critics who change their positions," Bush said.

If his critics had their way, Bush said, the United States would not respond to attacks until after they happened.

"I will continue to remind the American people that we deal with threats before they materialize. In this war that we are in, it is too late to respond after we are attacked," he said. "We must take threats seriously now."

"At this moment terrorists and extremists are fighting to overthrow moderate governments in the region," Bush also said Friday, adding that terrorists aim to use those countries to attack Americans and impose "their hateful ideology."

"This is the challenge of our time," Bush said.

Bush's speech Thursday singled out Democrats for conducting a "cut and run" agenda that left America vulnerable to more attacks from extremists.

The president also criticized the leaking of a National Intelligence Estimate, saying it was done to "mislead the American people and justify their policy of withdrawal from Iraq."

The document, an analysis of terror trends put together by the nation's top intelligence analysts across 16 spy agencies, concluded that Iraq is contributing to a growth in the jihadist movement around the world.

"The greatest danger is not that America's presence in the war in Iraq is drawing new recruits to the terrorist cause," Bush said. "The greatest danger is that an American withdrawal from Iraq would embolden the terrorists and help them find new recruits to carry out even more destructive attacks."

"Five years after 9/11, the worst attack on the American homeland in our history, Democrats offer nothing but criticism and obstruction and endless second-guessing," the president said.'s Greg Simmons and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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