Sunday, February 12, 2006

GOP chief plans to show Democrats as weak, use blogs


GOP chief plans to show Democrats as weak, use blogs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican national chairman Ken Mehlman on Friday outlined a political strategy for 2006 to portray Democrats as too weak to protect the country and to bypass the mainstream media to spread the GOP message.

Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mehlman roused the crowd at a Washington hotel to cheers as he told them President Bush had finally responded to decades of terrorist attacks.

"For a generation, terrorists learned they could make war on free nations without fear of war in return," Mehlman said, adding that Bush understood how to respond. "On Sept. 12, the terrorists got war in return."

Bush's stance on fighting terror is popular with participants in this annual meeting of hard-line conservatives from around the country and so are his federal court appointments.

But many at this national conference question the Bush administration's spending, deficits, immigration policies, prescription drug plan and increased use of federal power.

The GOP chief said such questioning is healthy for the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, keynoted the conference dinner, sketching out the Bush administration's efforts to reform the U.N.

Bolton's targets included waste and abuse of peacekeeping operations reported by the U.N. itself that he said virtually matches in losses the amount the United States contributes to the operation.

He also condemned a "culture of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel" that he said was pervasive at the United Nations and includes offices that exist only as part of an anti-Israel network.

Turning to Iran, whose nuclear programs have been referred to the Security Council, for possible punitive action, Bolton said Iran should follow Libya's lead, which abandoned its pursuit of unconventional weapons and shipped the technology to a U.S. facility at Oak Ridge, Tenn. Bolton drew a laugh by saying the United States could find room at Oak Ridge for Iranian nuclear equipment, as well.

"Like Libya, they can come to the conclusion that their pursuit of nuclear weapons is more harmful than the elimination of the program," Bolton said.

The fight against terrorism is centered in Iraq, Mehlman said, and the only way to prevent terrorists from taking charge there is to stick it out and win.

He quoted Democratic chairman Howard Dean saying that the idea the United States can win in Iraq is wrong and reminded that Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., accused American soldiers of "terrorizing women and children."

"Democratic leaders always seem to blame America first," Mehlman said, "especially when a Republican is in the White House."

Mehlman said the loss in popularity of the mainstream media — both the evening network news and daily newspapers — is an opportunity for conservatives. He pointed to the growing popularity of talk radio and blogging.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told the group he plans to push for a Senate vote in May on the inheritance tax, called the "death tax" by conservatives. And he said he would push for a vote June 5 on "the marriage protection amendment" that seeks to amend the Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

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