WASHINGTON – A majority of Democratic Party members are rapidly moving toward all-out opposition to Bush administration foreign policy, with some seeking international cooperation for a war with Iraq and others warning that the United States is ignoring a growing crisis with North Korea.
Rep. Joseph Hoeffel, D-Pa., said Wednesday that President Bush's "cowboy diplomacy" had alienated key allies like France, Germany and Russia. Hoeffel accused the president of reneging on a pledge to amass United Nations support before launching military action against Saddam Hussein.
"We are dealing with an isolated country with a fourth-rate military power, led by a murderous tyrant that nobody likes. And yet the [U.N.] Security Council is split. Why? It is because of the inept and bungled and cowboy diplomacy of President Bush and his senior advisers. He has spent a great deal of time in insulting our allies, in denigrating the United Nations," said Hoeffel, one of 81 House Democrats who voted on Oct. 10 to give Bush the option for military action against Iraq.
Several Democratic senators are now seeking a new vote on Iraq to bring the question to the floor for debate before any military action. Proposals are being offered by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Robert Byrd of West Virginia, both of whom voted against last October's resolution.
On North Korea, Democratic leaders in the Senate accused the president of escalating the growing crisis by refusing direct talks.
"The danger is great and yet the administration is saying it's not even a crisis. That's not credible," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.
On Tuesday, military officials announced that B-52 bombers were being moved closer to the Asian nation. The United States was also going to formally protest North Korea's "reckless actions" in using MiG fighters to intercept a U.S. surveillance plane in international airspace last Sunday.
The order for the bombers came on Friday, however, before North Korea's military provocation. Last month, the communist nation announced it was restarting a nuclear reactor designed to process plutonium for nuclear weapons.
"We frankly have no policy now. I wouldn't call it benign neglect, it's malign neglect," said Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
On Iraq, Democrats dig in deeper each day against U.S. action without full U.N. support.
"I think it represents a failure on the part of the administration to construct the international coalition as in past efforts. It was critical in 1991, but I am not willing to concede we're not able to get that coalition today," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.
On Wednesday, France, Germany and Russia announced that they would "not allow" passage of a U.N. resolution authorizing war against Iraq.
"We will not allow a resolution to pass that authorizes resorting to force," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said at a press conference in Paris. "Russia and France, as permanent members of the Security Council, will assume their full responsibilities on this point."
When asked whether France would use its veto, as Russia has suggested it might do, de Villepin said: "We will take all our responsibilities. We are in total agreement with the Russians."
The Security Council is expected to get a progress report on weapons inspections in Iraq on Friday. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is expected to attend the meeting, said Wednesday that Saddam is trying to deceive the world by limited disarmament of Al Samoud 2 missiles.
He added that "recent intelligence" shows that Saddam is moving material stores around the country to evade inspectors and is hiding them in neighboring country Syria and in civilian neighborhoods. Syria is a member of the Security Council opposed to a new resolution demanding immediate disarmament or otherwise authorizing war.
Powell was planning to be in New York on Thursday to meet one-on-one with Security Council members. Until Wednesday, he had not planned to attend the session, but after the statement from France, Russia and Germany, the State Department announced that Powell was indeed going to go. It is his fourth appearance at the United Nations in two months.
But while Democrats are berating the administration for bullying the rest of the world, at least one Democrat expressed anger over France, Germany and Russia's opposition to a new resolution.
"I am afraid that the obstructionist move by these three allies, beyond weakening the legitimacy and credibility of the U.N., will embolden Saddam and increase the chances of combat. That would be a grave mistake. It is time to give Saddam an unequivocal ultimatum. All France, Germany and Russia appear to be giving him by their latest actions is more time to deceive and more room to hide," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.
And the announcement by those nations led to a scathing attack from a leading Republican, who charged France, Germany and Russia with coddling Saddam.
"It makes those countries irrelevant on the international scene. They are taking the wrong approach. They have becomes apostles to appeasement and appeasement never works," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas.
DeLay told Fox News that Democrats who oppose U.S. action against Iraq without the U.N.'s blessing give the United Nations veto power over U.S. interests.
"I get a little tired of the multilateral mumbo jumbo that I think undermines our national security by putting the U.N. in charge of defending America," DeLay said.
But some Democrats echoed European criticism that the Bush administration is acting like an international bully.
"This crowd speaks harshly and as a result, you see that when it is time that we need our friends, it is hard to get them to come with us," said Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Fla.
Not all Democrats oppose Bush foreign policy. A small and barely vocal minority in the Democratic Party say they are ready to back the president's determination to confront Saddam with or without the United Nations.
"I think at some point as a leader of the free world, you have to say someone has to step up to the plate and enforce what is good for the rest of the world, "said Sen. John Breaux, D-La.
Congressional leaders from both parties met with the president at the White House Wednesday morning for a classified briefing on possible timetables for the Iraq war. While none spoke about the discussion, there were numerous indications that regardless of the United Nations, the United States is now positioned and prepared for action and is waiting on word from the commander-in-chief.
Fox News' Carl Cameron and Teri Schultz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.