Bush attacks Democrats on taxes and terror fight

The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, FLA. -- Using mocking language to belittle Democrats, President Bush launched a new, muscular political attack yesterday in his campaign to preserve Republican majorities in the House and Senate, challenging the Democrats' economic record and their commitment to fighting terrorism.

Two weeks before an election that threatens to bring upheaval to Capitol Hill, the White House is yielding not a bit to the possibility that come January Bush may have to deal for the first time with a Democratic majority.

"The Democrats make a lot of predictions. As a matter of fact, I think they may be measuring the drapes," he said.

"If their electoral predictions are as reliable as their economic predictions," he said, recalling Democrats' projections of economic failure after Congress enacted his tax cuts, "Nov. 7 is going to be a good day for the Republicans."

The president, who has used the war in Iraq as a central element in his stump speech as he seeks to persuade voters that a Democratic-led Congress would weaken the war effort, also has been trying to gain political traction from such upbeat economic news as falling energy prices and a rising stock market.

Yesterday, he turned to taxes, seeking to raise the prospect that they would go up if Democrats take charge.

"When you go to the voting booth in two weeks, the lever you pull will determine the taxes you pay for years to come," Bush said. "Americans will cast their ballots on Nov. 7, but you will feel the results every April 15."

He pulled out, as he has in the past, a statement by Rep. Nancy Pelosi - a California Democrat who is likely to become Speaker of the House if the Democrats win a majority - expressing Democrats' "love" of tax cuts.

Citing Democratic opposition to tax cuts he had proposed, the president said: "Time and time again, she had an opportunity to show her love for taxes. If this is the Democrats' idea of love, I wouldn't want to see what hate looks like."

Democrats have argued that the tax cuts were responsible for the soaring budget deficit, which is now dropping. They also have said that they oppose wholesale extension of some of the cuts as they expire in coming years and want to aim them more toward middle-class taxpayers.

The president spoke at a rally that Republican National Committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said raised $375,000 for Vern Buchanan, a Republican congressional candidate in a very tight race in a Republican-leaning district. Later, he spoke in private at a party that Schmitt said raised $1 million for the RNC, in Boca Raton.

Seeking to use Democrats' opposition to elements of the USA Patriot Act, which beefed up law enforcement intelligence operations after the Sept. 11 attacks, and to legislation creating military tribunals to try alleged terrorists, Bush said: "The vast majority of Democrats oppose the right of this administration to have a tool necessary to protect you. ... They must not think we're at war. They must think that the best way to protect you is to respond after the attack."

Minutes from the Sarasota airport, the president made an unannounced stop at Gyrocam Inc., a company that makes cameras that are used to help soldiers spot roadside bombs in Iraq. The stop provided an illustration of two of the president's themes: The role of small business in boosting the economy, and - as he moves away from the phrase "stay the course" to describe his policy in the war - the shifts taking place to counter insurgents.

James Gerstenzang writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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