June 24, 2005 in Nation/World

Rove outrages Democrats

Dan Balz Washington Post
The Spokesman-Review photo

(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – Democratic leaders angrily demanded a retraction from White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove on Thursday after President Bush’s top political strategist accused liberals of responding with restraint and timidity to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but White House and Republican officials rallied to his defense and rebuffed calls for an apology.

Democrats accused Rove of impugning their patriotism, misrepresenting the support they gave Bush after terrorists hit the United States and demeaning the memories of victims. Republicans accused Democrats of overreacting to what they said were accurate characterizations of reactions among some liberals and of having defended slanderous statements against the U.S. military.

In a Wednesday night speech in Manhattan to the New York state Conservative Party, Rove offered his view of the philosophical differences between liberals and conservatives. He cited the liberal group MoveOn.org and filmmaker Michael Moore, but he criticized only two politicians by name: Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

But as the controversy grew Thursday, other Republicans issued statements in support of Rove that cited such Democrats as Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee; Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.

The acrimonious exchanges came just two days after Durbin bowed to Republican-led pressure and apologized for comparing the treatment of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba to techniques used by the Nazis and the Soviets. Together, the episodes underscored the growing harshness and rising political stakes of the debate over national security at a time of declining support for President Bush’s handling of the situation in Iraq and pressure on him to outline a strategy for success there.

Rove’s Wednesday evening remarks were reported in Thursday’s New York Times and in wire service reports, and by Thursday morning had quickly exploded into the latest political battle between the parties.

In his speech, Rove said no issue better illustrated the philosophical difference between liberals and conservatives than national security. “Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war,” he said, in a prepared text released by the White House. “Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.”

Rove went on to say that conservatives wanted to “unleash the might and power” of the military against the Taliban in Afghanistan, while liberals wanted to submit petitions. He cited a petition he said was backed by the liberal group MoveOn.org that called for “moderation and restraint” in responding to the attacks.

“I don’t know about you, but moderation and restraint is not what I felt as I watched the Twin Towers crumble to the earth, a side of the Pentagon destroyed and almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens perish in flames and rubble,” he said, according to the text. “Moderation and restraint is not what I felt – and moderation and restraint is not what was called for. It was a moment to summon our national will – and to brandish steel. MoveOn.org, Michael Moore and Howard Dean may not have agreed with this, but the American people did.”

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