President George W. Bush tried in vain Tuesday to turn attention away from the mushrooming scandal involving the GOP’s mishandling of the Rep. Mark Foley Scandal but his escalating rhetoric on familiar campaign themes fell short.
Bush’s frantic attempts showed the level of desperation that is sweeping through Republican camps as the party tries to recover from the latest scandal.
Reports The Associated Press:
President Bush is turning up the volume on his charge that Democrats are soft on terror, but his campaign message is competing against a noisy Capitol Hill scandal tailing Republicans as the election nears.
Bush will work to keep the election framed around the economy and the war on terror on Wednesday when he continues a three-day fundraising swing through the West to help the GOP retain control of Congress on Nov. 7.
Back in Washington, the partisan sniping continues over when Republican leaders in the House first learned about the conduct of former Rep. Mark Foley (news, bio, voting record), R-Fla., who sent sexually explicit messages to teenage boys who had worked as pages at the Capitol.
Bush interrupted his fundraising swing in California on Tuesday to denounce Foley’s conduct and support House Speaker Dennis Hastert amid calls for the Illinois Republican’s resignation as speaker.
Republican strategists worry that the Foley scandal could keep conservatives away from the polls, but the White House said Bush is focused on getting his message out to voters.
"The president’s concentration has been on these fundraisers where he’s delivering a message showing philosophical choices that voters have to make this November, especially as it comes to the economy and the global war on terror," White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino told reporters on Air Force One as it flew to Los Angeles for a third fundraiser on Tuesday. "The president has his eye on the ball when it comes to campaigning, and he’s going to continue to crisscross the country."
At California fundraisers for Reps. Richard Pombo and John Doolittle, Bush criticized Democrats who voted against legislation authorizing warrantless monitoring of phone calls and e-mails to detect terror plots and a bill that would allow tough interrogation of terror suspects by CIA agents.
White House aides said Bush will impart the same message in Arizona at a breakfast fundraiser for Republican Rep. Rick Renzi, who is seeking a third term.
"Time and time again, the Democrats want to have it both ways. They talk tough on terror, but when the votes are counted, their softer side comes out," Bush said.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada responded that Republicans have put national security at risk by their policies in Iraq.
"President Bush is no longer credible with the American people, no matter how many campaign speeches he gives in the next month," Reid said. "The president won’t listen to the 16 intelligence agencies that say that the war in Iraq has made the threat of terrorism worse."
While in Arizona, Bush also plans to sign a bill that could bring hundreds of miles of fencing to the busiest illegal entry point on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Before returning to Washington Wednesday night, Bush is stopping in Englewood, Colo., to stump for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez.