WASHINGTON – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (search) lashed out at President Bush on Thursday, saying his Iraq (search) policies show incompetence and the only conclusion to draw is that "the emperor has no clothes."
"I believe that the president's leadership and the actions taken in Iraq demonstrate an incompetence in terms of knowledge, judgment and experience," the California Democrat told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference.
Republicans swiftly responded by defending the president and assailing Pelosi for crossing the line for political gain.
Marc Racicot, the chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign, described Pelosi's comments as a "reprehensible attempt to blame America for the actions of terrorists," and called on Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) to repudiate her remarks.
The criticism of Bush — harsh even by the highly partisan standards in Washington — came as the president traveled to the Capitol to rally Republican lawmakers around his Iraq plan at a time of increasing violence in Iraq and outrage over Iraqi prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers.
Bush told congressional Republicans he is sticking to a June 30 date for handing partial governing authority to Iraqis and that the Iraqis are ready to "take the training wheels off" by assuming some political power.
Democrats, including Kerry, have been critical of Bush's stewardship of Iraq, but Pelosi's comments were the strongest to date.
"This president should have known ... when you decide to go to war you have to know what the consequences of your action are and how you can accomplish the mission," Pelosi said. "There was plenty of intelligence to say there would be chaos in Iraq following the fall of Baghdad."
Bush's policy "of ignoring his own State Department about what would happen after the fall of Baghdad and ignoring the intelligence as to the chaotic situation that would exist ... carries with it a responsibility for all of the costs of war," she said. "And that's not only the president, that is all of us any time we vote to send our young people into harm's way.
"The results of his action are what undermine his leadership, not my statements," she said. "The emperor has no clothes. When are people going to face the reality?"
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said Pelosi's comments "were meant to inspire her political base. But who else do they inspire? If we followed Mrs. Pelosi's advice, Saddam Hussein (search) would still terrorize the citizens of Iraq. We would still be waiting for the U.N. to make any decision regarding our national security."
Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said if all Pelosi could offer is taunting U.S. troops "by saying they are dying needlessly and are risking their lives on a shallow mission, then she should just go back to her pastel-colored condo in San Francisco and keep her views to herself."
A Pelosi spokeswoman said that the congresswoman lives in a red-brick house.