Is the U.S. doing enough to combat terror?
By Wolf Blitzer
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democratic Senator Bob Graham of Florida is leveling some very serious charges against President Bush and his administration. Some may dismiss Graham's criticism as nothing more than politics. He is one of nine declared Democratic presidential hopefuls. But Graham is also a former Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He's also widely regarded as a thoughtful moderate. Before coming to the Senate, he served as Florida's Governor.
During an interview with me, Graham accused the Administration of undermining the U.S.-led war against terror by focusing too much attention on Iraq. That, he says, has allowed al Qaeda to regroup and plot more attacks. He also says the administration has all but ignored Hezbollah, which he calls "the A-team of international terrorists."
Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a strong supporter of President Bush, rejected Graham's accusations even as he called Graham "a hard working man." He says Graham is simply wrong. Interestingly, Warner was in part backed up by Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, who is a member of both the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees. "I am personally unaware of anything that we could be doing to fight al Qaeda that we're not doing," Bayh said. "My impression is there is still a robust effort going on there."
So this debate will continue. Some will write off Graham's accusations as nothing more than presidential politics. He is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination and supposedly seeking to win support among Democrats. This war on terror is certainly a strong issue.
But others insist Graham is too respected for that. Yes, the issue might resonate with Democrats. But, his supporters say, Graham clearly believes every word he's saying.
My own sense is this: this debate will get even more intense as the political season unfolds in the coming months, especially if the U.S. fails to find considerably more evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.