Bush battles for GOP dominance

Times Staff Writer

Using mocking language to belittle Democrats, President Bush launched a muscular political attack Tuesday 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 might 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,” Bush said, recalling Democrats’ grim projections after Congress enacted his tax cuts, “Nov. 7 is going to be a good day for the Republicans.”


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

On Tuesday, he turned to taxes, seeking to raise the prospect that they would go up if Democrats took 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 cited, as he has in the past, a statement by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the likely speaker if her party wins a majority, expressing Democrats’ “love” of tax cuts.


Citing Democratic opposition to tax cuts he had proposed, the president said: “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, and have said that they oppose wholesale extension of some of the cuts as they expire in coming years and want to balance them more toward middle-class taxpayers.

“Democrats who have made fiscal responsibility a high ethical standard and middle-class tax cuts a priority must be a frightening prospect for President Bush and his rubber-stamp Congress’ failed economic policies and ballooning budget deficits,” Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said.

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


The event here was Bush’s first in Sarasota since Sept. 11, 2001. He was in a classroom with elementary school students when he was told a second plane had struck the World Trade Center.

Seeking to use Democrats’ opposition to elements of the Patriot Act, which beefed up law enforcement intelligence operations after Sept. 11, and to legislation creating military tribunals to try alleged terrorists, Bush said: “The vast majority of Democrats opposed 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.

“The vast majority of Democrats voted against giving our professionals the right to interrogate to protect America. These are patriotic souls, but their vision of the world is wrong, and we want to make sure that we continue to control the House of Representatives to provide the protection necessary.”

Critics of the measures questioned whether they abrogated defendants’ rights and opened the door to unnecessary spying on Americans.


Minutes from the Sarasota airport, Bush made an unannounced stop at Gyrocam Systems, a company that makes cameras used to help soldiers spot roadside bombs in Iraq. The visit illustrated 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.

“Our goal in Iraq has not changed....” he said to reporters. “Our tactics are adjusting.”