Dems, GOP Clash Over Bush's 9/11 Anniversary Speech

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - One day after many Americans came together to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, representatives of the nation's two major political parties clashed over comments made by the president during his speech on Monday night.

"On the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, President Bush continued to try to justify the invasion of Iraq by drawing nonexistent links to the 9/11 attacks," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday. "To try to make partisan gain out of such tragedy dishonors all those we lost on Sept. 11.

"In fact, the war in Iraq has made our effort to defeat terrorism and terrorists more difficult. Last night's speech demonstrated that the president will go to any lengths to distract attention from his failures in Iraq, which have diverted focus from the war on terrorism," Pelosi noted.

"The American people deserved an opportunity to grieve and come together as a nation last night," she added. "Instead, President Bush gave them partisan and inaccurate rhetoric."

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that Bush was "consumed by staying the course in Iraq and playing election-year politics."

"The American people deserved better last night," Reid said in a statement. "They deserved a chance to reclaim that sense of unity, purpose and patriotism that swept through our country five years ago."

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) also accused the president of playing politics with his address.

"Last night, President Bush used the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11th as another stop on his P.R. tour, repeatedly using false rhetoric to mislead the American people," the DNC said in a news release on Tuesday.

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) shot back at the Democrats during a news conference Tuesday morning. "I wonder if they're more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people," Boehmer said. "They certainly don't want to take the terrorists on and defeat them."

White House spokesman Tony Snow gave a more measured response to the Democrats' criticism, stating there had been "differing points of view" regarding Bush's speech.

Snow acknowledged that "three or four sentences" in the president's 17-minute address could be considered controversial, but he stressed that Bush went out of his way not to be partisan.

"This was not a speech that was designed to single out anybody for partisan reasons, but gave the president's honest reflections and reactions to what has happened since September 11, 2001," Snow stated. "The president decided that yesterday wasn't a day for partisanship."

Still, Snow noted that the president felt he had to discuss the fighting in Iraq, which Osama bin Laden considers "World War III." The mastermind behind 9/11 also states that "the victory for terrorists in Iraq will mean America's defeat and disgrace forever."

"We are in Iraq. It is now seen as the central focal point in the War on Terror by the very people who mounted September 11," Snow noted.

"If the president of the United States, in talking about September 11, did not make reference to the plans and the strategy and the beliefs of the very people who mounted September 11 on the very anniversary of that date, it would have been seen as a dereliction," he added.

Snow also said that "the president never once talked about a Democrat by name yesterday; never once said: 'My policy is this, their policy is that. They're wrong. I'm right.'"

The White House spokesman's comments directly contradicted a Tuesday press release from Senate Democrats calling for "a new direction for America's security" that appeared to show any unity achieved on the 9/11 anniversary had already been replaced with "business as usual" in Washington, D.C.

"Despite the continued threat of terrorism at home and abroad, Republican leaders in Washington have failed to fully address the security at our nation's ports, airports and mass transit systems," the statement said.

"Sadly, Republican leaders in Washington still haven't learned the real lessons of the terrorist attacks, and their failed policies have left America less safe than it should be," the release noted. "Democrats have offered the aggressive, comprehensive, smart policies that are needed to finally put America's security back on the right track."

While Snow admitted that "we're going to have a lot of political conflict this year" as the mid-term elections of Nov. 7 draw closer, he noted that "as a nation, we remain united to beat [the terrorists]. And we remain united in our desire to remember the people who died" on Sept. 11, 2001.

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