Pelosi questions Bush's competence
Republicans demand apology
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: "When are people going to face the reality?"
CNN's Joe Johns on House Speaker Dennis Hastert's swipe at Sen. John McCain.
CNN's Ed Henry on Sen. John Kerry's meeting with Ralph Nader.
CNN's Joe Johns on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Iraq.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday sharply questioned President Bush's competence as a leader, suggesting his policy in Iraq is to blame for the loss of U.S. lives. That assessment drew a furious response by Republicans who called on the Democratic leader to apologize.
"The emperor has no clothes," Pelosi, D-California, told reporters on Thursday. "When are people going to face the reality? Pull this curtain back."
Pelosi first delivered her comments to a California newspaper. She repeated them during an exchange with reporters Thursday -- the same day Bush was on Capitol Hill meeting in private with GOP lawmakers in a sort of pep rally for the party faithful.
Republicans effused praise for the president as they left the meeting, but Democrats were having none of it.
"The situation in Iraq and the reckless economic policies in the United States speak to one issue for me, and that is the competence of our leader," Pelosi said. "These policies are not working. But speaking specifically to Iraq, we have a situation where -- without adequate evidence -- we put our young people in harm's way."
Asked specifically if she was calling Bush incompetent, Pelosi replied:
"I believe that the president's leadership in the actions taken in Iraq demonstrate an incompetence in terms of knowledge, judgment and experience in making the decisions that would have been necessary to truly accomplish the mission without the deaths to our troops and the cost to our taxpayers."
Pelosi charged the Bush administration has proved itself wrong on a number of issues with Iraq, including its initial assertions that Iraqis would welcome U.S. troops and that Iraq itself could pay for much of the reconstruction effort.
"Rocket-propelled grenades, not rose petals, greeted them," Pelosi said of U.S. troops. "Instead ... of Iraq being a country that would readily pay for its own reconstruction ... we're up to over $200 billion in cost to the American people."
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay blasted Pelosi, casting her comments as detrimental to U.S. troops.
"Nancy Pelosi should apologize for her irresponsible, dangerous rhetoric," DeLay, R-Texas, said. "She apparently is so caught up in partisan hatred for President Bush that her words are putting American lives at risk."
The Republican National Committee also released a written statement, saying Pelosi and other Democrats were putting more blame for the deaths of U.S. service members on Bush than on terrorists. And the statement tied Pelosi to Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
"The San Francisco/Boston Democrats led by John Kerry have now adopted 'Blame America First' as their official policy," RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie said in the statement.
Pelosi did not back down, even when asked if her comments would undermine Bush's abilities as commander in chief.
"His activities, his decisions, the results of his actions are what undermines his leadership, not my statement," Pelosi said. "My statements are just a statement of fact."
At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan was asked about Pelosi.
"I just don't think that such comments are worth dignifying with any response from this podium," he said.
CNN's Ted Barrett and Sean Loughlin contributed to this report.