(1st Add: Comments from Marc Racicot have been included.)
Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said Thursday that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) crossed the line with his choice of words in a speech critical of President Bush Wednesday.
Speaking at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, Kerry said Bush had committed a "breach of trust" against other members of the United Nations that could only be repaired by Bush's replacement in the White House.
"Regardless of how successful the United States is in waging war against Iraq, it will take a new president to rebuild the country's damaged relationships with the rest of the world," Kerry told the overflow crowd. "What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States."
Hastert issued a statement Thursday criticizing Kerry's "unfortunate remarks."
"[E]quating regime change in Iraq with regime change in the United States is not what we need at this time," Hastert said. "What we need is for this nation to pull together, to support our troops and to support our commander-in-chief."
Questioning the timing of Kerry's statement, Hastert noted that coalition forces have now reached a "serious and somber point in this conflict" and that the public is just learning of the torture of American prisoners of war at the hands of Saddam Hussein's military.
"We are in the middle of a tough war. Our troops are starting a major offensive against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq's capital," Hastert said, "and unfortunately, both American citizens and Iraqi citizens will lose their lives.
"Once this war is over, there will be plenty of time for the next election," Hastert concluded. "But the war is not yet over, and we still have much work to do to rid the world of Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime."
Also critical of Kerry's remarks was Marc Racicot, chairman of the Republican National Committee.
"Sen. Kerry crossed a grave line when he dared to suggest the replacement of America's commander-in-chief at a time when America is at war," Racicot said in a statement.
"Critical analysis offered in the best interests of the country is part of a healthy democracy. But this use of self-serving rhetoric designed to further Sen. Kerry's political ambitions at a time when the lives of America's sons and daughters are at stake reflects a complete lack of judgment," he noted.
"The men and women who are putting themselves in harm's way on the orders of our commander-in-chief deserve better from someone who aspires to that high office."
Kerry also renewed the charge that George W. Bush was not legitimately elected to the presidency.
"Just because the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision in its selection - and an error in its decision - in the year 2000 doesn't mean we have to live with it for six more years," Kerry charged. The Massachusetts Democrat hopes to unseat Bush in the 2004 presidential elections, but he faces primary competition from a number of fellow Democrats.
Bush's election became legally binding when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (R) had properly complied with her state's constitution by certifying disputed election results in three heavily Democratic counties.
Although Bush lost the so-called "popular vote," he won a majority of the 538 Electoral College votes from the presidential elections in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as is required by the U.S. Constitution to become president.
(CNSNews.com Managing Editor David Thibault contributed to this report.)
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