Saturday, January 21, 2006

Rove tells Republicans to run on Bush's record

Rove tells Republicans to run on Bush's record

By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - White House political adviser Karl Rove on Friday said Democratic critics of the Iraq war were wrong and Republicans should highlight the issue in November's congressional elections.

Most polls show majorities of Americans have lost confidence in President George W. Bush's handling of the war. But Rove, still under the threat of indictment in a CIA-leak probe, said Republicans should emphasize Bush's record on security, the economy and the courts during the November campaign.

"We need a commander in chief and a Congress who understand the nature of the threat and the gravity of the moment America finds itself in," Rove told a meeting of the Republican National Committee in a rare public appearance.

"President Bush and the Republican Party do. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many Democrats," he said.

Rove, Bush's top political guru, also capitalized on the party's traditional advantage on national security issues to help Republicans sweep to victories in elections in 2002 and 2004, citing new dangers after the September 11 attacks.

This year Rove and Republicans have grown nervous about their prospects in November amid public doubts about the Iraq war and corruption scandals involving prominent party members, including former House Republican Leader Tom DeLay and Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Rove himself remains under threat of indictment in an investigation into who leaked the name of a CIA agent whose husband is a prominent Iraq-war critic.

Rove said a quick pullout from Iraq would be a "reckless act" and criticized demands by some Democrats for a troop withdrawal.

"Republicans have a post-9/11 view of the world and Democrats have a pre-9/11 view of the world," Rove said. "That doesn't make them unpatriotic, not at all, but it does make them wrong -- wrong deeply and profoundly and consistently."

Rove made no mention of his own legal jeopardy. The leak probe led late last year to the indictment and resignation of his White House colleague, Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman told the meeting that "if Republicans are guilty of illegal or inappropriate behavior, then they should pay the price and they should suffer the consequences."

But Democratic Party chief Howard Dean said Rove did not have any standing to attack their commitment to security. "Karl Rove breached our national security for partisan gain and that is unpatriotic and wrong," Dean said.

Tackling an issue that has split the party, RNC members passed by voice vote an immigration resolution that called for better border security but included a guest worker program supported by Bush.

A competing resolution that did not include a guest worker program was withdrawn without a vote.