Democratic hopefuls blast Bush
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Addressing Democratic activists trying to plot a course back to power, three of the party's 2004 presidential hopefuls Saturday blasted President Bush as a pawn of the powerful who is out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Americans.
"In two short years, George W. Bush has taught us what the 'W' stands for -- wrong," said Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, addressing the second day of the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting.
"Wrong for our children, wrong for our parents, wrong for our values. Wrong, wrong, wrong for America."
"We will call him to account for his broken promises. We will challenge him for his duplicity. We will hold him responsible for his failures," Edwards said.
New York civil rights activist Al Sharpton denounced Bush's economic policies as "who do voodoo economics" -- a reference to Bush's father's 1980 denunciation of Ronald Reagan's economic plans as "voodoo economics."
"It's the whole economic theory of trickle-down. ... We never got the trickle. We got the down," Sharpton said. "We've lost 2 million jobs while he tells us that we're doing better."
But as on Friday, when four other 2004 presidential hopefuls addressed the DNC, the remarks from the candidates showed the divisions among Democrats over whether to take military action against Iraq.
"The world is on the brink of a war initiated by our own government against a nation which did not attack us -- a war which will steal from this nation the joy of our purpose in the world and faith in our purpose at home," said Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who opposes military action.
"Iraq was not responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. Iraq has not been credibly linked to al Qaeda's role in 9/11. Iraq was not responsible for the anthrax attack on our nation. Iraq does not have technology to strike this nation," he said. "Inspections are necessary. War is not."
Sharpton said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein "is not a man that any of us would support and, clearly, has done grave atrocities."
But Sharpton said Bush has not made the case that war is the only option to deal with Iraq, and his push for military action points out the administration's misplaced priorities.
"He tells us in the name of war that we must be proud to give our lives to defend the country, and we should," Sharpton said.
"But how is it an honor for working-class young men and women to risk their lives in Iraq, but it's a burden for the rich to pay their share of taxes in America?"
Edwards, who voted for last year's resolution authorizing Bush to take military force to disarm Iraq, reiterated his view that Iraq must be disarmed, using force "if necessary."
"I know that there are a lot of you who don't agree with me about this," Edwards said. "[Saddam] has chemical and biological weapons. He's used them in the past. We cannot let him have nuclear capability."
Edwards said the "real test" for the United States will be how it deals with a post-Saddam Iraq -- and he said the Bush administration must do a better job than it did after toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan.
"The world is watching us. They know we are powerful. They know we are strong. Now they want to know, do we care?" he said.
The four hopefuls who addressed the DNC Friday were Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun.
Gephardt and Lieberman support Bush's hard-line position on Iraq, while Dean and Moseley-Braun oppose it.
Two other candidates, Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Bob Graham of Florida, both recovering from recent surgeries, did not attend the DNC meeting.
The party leaders who converged on Washington for the two-day meeting assessed their poor showing in the 2002 midterm elections in which they lost control of the Senate and lost ground in the House.
Bush, who has an approval rating of 58 percent in the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, was the campaigner in chief during the GOP's successful effort last fall.
The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Marc Racicot, issued an open letter to DNC members Friday, calling on them to drop their "negative message" against the popular president and his policies, which he said contributed to the Democrats' weak showing in the midterm election.
"Democrats should use the opportunity at their National Committee meeting this week to do a little soul-searching to determine if they are capable of articulating a positive agenda that will advance the debate between our parties -- not just to say no," wrote Racicot, a former governor of Montana.
DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe ridiculed Racicot's statements Saturday. "It's going to take a lot more than a press release to stop the Democrats from standing up and fighting for what this party believes in," he said.
"They say that we shouldn't talk about what George Bush is doing to this country, that it's too negative," McAuliffe said. "It's negative, all right. Under Bush, we have a negative stock market, negative family income and negative job growth."
In his speech Saturday, Edwards, while arguing that Bush was beatable in 2004, also said Democrats had to go beyond just criticizing him.
"We'll win this election, but we won't win it by just telling people what went wrong in the last two years," Edwards said. "We're going to win it by telling them what we're going to do to make it right."