WASHINGTON – President Bush's speech Tuesday calling for a international unity in rebuilding Iraq was quickly met with criticism — muted from other United Nations members, but loudly vocal from Democrats on Capitol Hill.
One year since Bush challenged the U.N. General Assembly to force Saddam Hussein to comply with resolutions demanding Iraq disarm or face "serious consequences," Bush invited the global body to play an expanding role in Iraq's reconstruction.
"Every young democracy needs the help of friends," Bush said.
The U.N. should assist in preparing a constitution for Iraq, help train civil servants and conduct free and fair elections, he said.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (search), D-S.D., said Bush "lost an opportunity" in his speech.
"He could have made the case for more troops, he could have made the case for more resources ... [but] he didn't do so," Daschle said. "I wish he could have made a better case ... he could have presented a plan."
Many Democrats have chastised the White House for not having a concrete plan for post-war Iraq, one that might presumably include a timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces and handing over all security to locals.
"The President wasted another opportunity to move forward and to give us details," said Sen. John Kerry (search) of Massachusetts, one of 10 Democratic presidential candidates. "He has again failed to tell us exactly what role he expects the United Nations to play now and what timetable he envisions for the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people."
The Bush administration has said the United States is committed to staying in the country until it is secure enough for Iraqis to control, but no longer.
Countries should volunteer such resources, Bush said Tuesday, because the success of the Iraqi people will prove to the world that the region can thrive free of terrorists and dictators.
"The Iraqi people are meeting hardships and challenges, like every nation that has set out on the path of democracy," Bush said in his address. "Yet their future promises lives of dignity and freedom, and that is a world away from the squalid, vicious tyranny they have known. ... Across the Middle East, people are safer because an unstable aggressor has been removed from power."
Sen. Joe Lieberman (search), D-Conn., said Bush was "right to go to the U.N. and remind the world that it has a vital stake in helping turn Iraq into a peaceful and democratic state."
But he added: "Rhetoric is no substitute for strategy and specifics."
Lieberman has been the least critical of all 2004 presidential candidates when it comes to Iraq.
On Tuesday, however, he called Bush's speech an "eleventh-hour, half-hearted appeal to the United Nations," adding that Bush's "continuing 'I-told-you-so' tone [has] made it more difficult to secure international assistance in building a safe, stable and self-governing Iraq."
Two weeks ago, Lieberman called for Bush to immediately set a 60-day deadline to hand over Iraq's government to local leaders.
"Americans and all the world must see that Iraq is not America's prize; it is the Iraqi people's nation, reclaimed from Saddam's tyranny," Lieberman said.
Added Rep. Richard Gephardt (search), a 2004 Democratic hopeful from Missouri: "It took the president too long to make a compelling case to the United Nations and has subsequently made our efforts to build a broader coalition more challenging."
Republicans were more supportive.
"The president has made a persuasive case for greater international support of our efforts to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan and to advance the war against global terrorism," said Rep. Henry Hyde (search), R-Ill. "President Bush has once again made clear the great peril in which we live and the need for the entire globe to contribute to combating this mortal threat."
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (search) of Illinois said "the international community needs to step up to the plate and help the United States finish the job."
"By leading an international coalition that removed Saddam Hussein, President Bush did what the United Nations couldn't do," Hastert continued. "By taking out the Taliban, President Bush did what the United Nations wouldn't dare do. ... I call on the President's critics to say what they would have done differently."
Bush's biggest critic lately has been Sen. Ted Kennedy (search), D-Mass., who has not run for president since 1980. Kennedy became a whipping post Tuesday for some Republicans who came to Bush's defense.
"Criticism is welcome ... but if you're going to do it, you have to ask, 'Is the nation better off having opposed Saddam Hussein and his regime of terror, or should we have left it as it was?'" said Sen. John Warner (search), R-Va. "That should be asked by those who wish to employ this strident rhetoric."
Fox News' Julie Asher, Jim Mills and Brian Wilson contributed to this report.