White House adviser Karl Rove should either apologize or resign for saying liberals responded to the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes by wanting to "prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Democrats said Thursday.
Adding to the rancor, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., suggested that Republican charges that Democrats were undermining the war on terror with their criticism of administration policies amounted to an act of desperation.
"The president wanted to go to Iraq in the worst possible way and he did," Pelosi said. "The president is on the ropes."
President Bush's chief political adviser, Rove said in a speech Wednesday that "liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers." Conservatives, he told the New York state Conservative Party just a few miles north of Ground Zero, "saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war."
Rove said the Democratic Party made the mistake of calling for "moderation and restraint" after the terrorist attacks.
Democrats were quick to respond — and in growing numbers.
"Karl Rove should immediately and fully apologize for his remarks or he should resign," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement. "I hope the president will join me in repudiating these remarks."
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean called on Mr. Bush to "show some leadership and unequivocally repudiate Rove's divisive and damaging political rhetoric."
The White House defended Rove's remarks and accused Democrats of engaging in partisan attacks. Rove, said spokesman Scott McClellan, "was talking about the different philosophies and our different approaches when it comes to winning the war on terrorism."
During ain which Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other military leaders testified, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., read Rove's statement and urged them to reject the remarks.
"I would hope that you and other members of the administration would immediately repudiate such an insulting comment from a high-ranking official in the president's inner circle," Clinton said.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said nearly 3,000 Americans died on Sept. 11 and "we should not dishonor their memory by using that tragic day for political trash talk."
Three days after the terrorist attacks, the Senate voted 98-0 and the House voted 420-1 for a resolution authorizing President Bush to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against those responsible for the terrorism. After the votes, Mr. Bush said in a statement: "I am gratified that the Congress has united so powerfully by taking this action. It sends a clear message — our people are together, and we will prevail."
During the 2004 campaign, Mr. Bush dismissed the notion of negotiating with terrorists and said, "You can't sit back and hope that somehow therapy will work and they will change their ways."
On Wednesday, Rove also denouncedcomparing interrogation at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp to the methods of Nazis and other repressive regimes. He said the statements have been broadcast throughout the Middle East, putting U.S. troops in greater danger. The Illinois Democrat has since apologized for the remarks.
"No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals," Rove said.
Seven House Republicans also wrote Pelosi saying they were shocked by a statement in which she said the war in Afghanistan was over. "Messages like yours could demoralize our troops and undermine our efforts to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and around the world," they wrote.
Pelosi, who made the comment at a news conference where Democrats called for an investigation into detainee abuses at Guantanamo Bay, said Thursday that she was referring to the campaign to drive the Taliban from power in 2001. Fighting continues, she said, because the administration decided to divert its attention from Afghanistan to the war in Iraq.