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(photo credit: AP)
President George W. Bush, campaigning in Missouri to save Republican control of Congress in next Tuesday's elections, blasted Democrats on Friday, saying they have no plan to keep Americans safe from terrorists.
Bush said Democrats calling for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq are not unpatriotic, just wrong. He said Democrats who voted against legislation to detain and interrogate suspected terrorists and the National Security Agency's eavesdropping program do not understand the stakes in the fight against terrorism.
Democrats say they are ahead in many races because of the public's growing dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq. And polls show that a clear majority of Americans see the war as a mistake and far fewer support the president's handling of it.
"If they say they want to win the war on terror, but call for America to pull out of what al-Qaida says is the central front in this war, ask them this question: 'What's your plan?'" Bush said at a rally for Missouri Republican Sen. Jim Talent, who is seeking re-election in one of the tightest races in the nation.
"The truth is the Democrats can't answer that question," Bush said. "Harsh criticism is not a plan for victory. Second-guessing is not a strategy.
The president remained upbeat about a Republican victory next Tuesday, while Democrats are expressing growing optimism that their long season out of power might soon end.
Violence against Iraqis has grown unabated in the past month, with more than 1,300 killed since Oct. 1. Fearing more bloodshed after Sunday's expected announcement of a verdict in the trial of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Iraq's defense minister has canceled leave for all army officers.
Bush, undeterred, continued to argue that Democrats had no plan to win in Iraq.
"We're going to win this election because we have a record to run on," Bush said.
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, offering a positive preview of his party's prospects, said Thursday that the White House is playing into the Democratic Party's hands.
"In an effort to strengthen their base, they keep reminding the public that there's not going to be any change in Iraq," Schumer said.
Bush also touched on an issue that resonates with the Republican base: Filling the federal bench with judicial conservatives.
Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, who has been touring Missouri to rally party volunteers, did the same on Thursday in Columbia, saying that it's important for voters to re-elect Talent to make sure that more conservatives are placed on the nation's top courts.
"When people go to the polls here in Missouri, you're not only voting for the United States senator, you're voting to determine what kind of judges will sit on the bench," Bush said.