WASHINGTON (AP) _ Maneuvering for election-year advantage, President Bush is striking back at Democrats who have trumpeted government findings that the Iraq war has helped recruit more terrorists, saying the opposition party is one of ``obstruction and endless second-guessing.''
With less than six weeks until Election Day, Bush and Democrats grabbed onto recently declassified intelligence findings to step up their criticisms of one another on the pivotal issue of national security. Bush called Democrats obstructionists who will run from the fight in Iraq, while the top Democrat in the Senate said Bush's failed strategy shows he has no credibility on national security.
Bush's pointed reproach of the Democrats came Thursday before more than 2,000 Republicans at a Birmingham, Ala., fundraiser for Gov. Bob Riley and the state GOP. He planned to continue touting his war leadership Friday, albeit in a less partisan speech before the Reserve Officers Association in Washington than he gave in Alabama.
In that address, Bush said Democrats are using a National Intelligence Estimate that was leaked to the media last weekend 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.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., responded by calling on Bush to release the entire National Intelligence Estimate _ not just the key judgments _ so Americans can determine for themselves whether his policies are working. ``The fact that he won't speaks volumes about how the failure of his policies has made the American people less safe,'' Reid said in a written statement.
White House officials said that on Friday, Bush would highlight his diplomatic work this week by describing his two-and-a-half-hour dinner Wednesday night with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Bush considers the neighboring leaders to be key allies against Islamic extremism in the region, but they have been sparring over efforts to fight terrorists along their long mountainous border.
White House officials said Bush planned to describe the two leaders' role in the struggle between moderation and extremism that is unfolding across the broader Middle East. He was to talk about how they personally understand the stakes because of the extremists who are trying to spread violence in their countries, including with attempted assassination attacks on both their lives.
He also planned to tout progress in Afghanistan, such as the more than 30,000 military forces and 46,000 police who have been trained and equipped. He was to laud NATO's role in securing the country, even as Afghanistan suffers its worst violence since the U.S.-led ouster of the extremist Taliban regime nearly five years ago.
More specifically on Pakistan, Bush planned to applaud Musharraf's role in fighting terrorism and talk about how the U.S. is helping establish stronger control over the border region where terrorists are able to hide.