Gephardt Carries the Democratic Line: 'Stop the Rhetoric'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

( - Injecting "politics" into national security issues is "immoral," said House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt on Thursday, continuing the indignant tone toward the White House that Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle raised on Wednesday.

Gephardt, appearing on the Fox News show Fox & Friends, said he contacted White House Chief of Staff Andy Card following Sen. Tom Daschle's well-publicized blowup at President Bush.

"I said it's really important that this stop," Gephardt said. "I asked that they try to get everybody in the White House, everybody in the administration, everybody in the Republican Party in the Congress to stop trying to drag this into politics...We have disagreements over the policy in both parties, but let's not drag it into politics, let's vote our consciences," Gephardt said.

"We've got to see a drawing down of this rhetoric saying that Democrats are not for national security. That's a ridiculous statement, and it's going to lead to nothing but further political rhetoric on both sides."

Gephardt said President Bush "has made a number of statements" saying that Democrats are against national security. "Look, homeland security is the same as the war on Iraq...This is all to do with national security..."

Gephardt called it "ridiculous" for the president to say he's going to veto a homeland security bill "because we disagree on a detail." That "detail," as Gephardt defined it, is that the Democrats "want federal workers to have some rights." President Bush says Democrats are catering to labor unions (special interests). The Bush adminstration wants to be able to easily fire workers who aren't getting the homeland security job done.

Gephardt said Al Gore's speech on Monday (in which Gore criticized President Bush for taking moving against Iraq before he finishes the job in Afghanistan) did not prompt Daschle's to explode as he did on Wednesday. "We've got lots of different opinions in both parties. Everybody should express their opinions, come to their own conclusions. We've got to stop reading motives into what everybody's doing here - political motives," Gephardt said.

"People actually try to do things here for the right reason. And we've got to give people the room and the ability to do that..."

Gephardt denied a suggestion that top Democrats are under pressure from rank-and-file Democrats for following the lead of the White House. "I just don't think that's accurate," he said.

"The people here are trying to do the right thing for the country, trying to keep people safe. If we drag everything into politics, we're not going to do our job and our country will fail."

Gephardt could not say when the American people can expect Congress to come up with language for a resolution authorizing the president to use force, if necessary, against Iraq.

"We are trying to do it. But again, the more it gets politicized, the more time it's going to take, and the more we stand a chance of failing to do the things that are right for the people's security..."

"These interruptions and side roads are not helping us get the job done...""