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Democrats raise Rumsfeld attacks to put GOP on defensive

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congressional Democrats are sharpening their attacks on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, with one senator proposing a resolution that would call on President Bush to sack the outspoken Pentagon chief.

Sen. Barbara Boxer of California said Thursday that she wants to attach the measure to the defense appropriation bill coming to the Senate floor after lawmakers' August recess.

Democrats in the House of Representatives are likely to offer a similar proposal, a senior Democratic aide said.

The idea is to force Republicans to cast what would amount to a vote of confidence in Rumsfeld -- one of the architects of the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq -- before November's midterm elections, said a Democratic strategist close to the House.

Such a move also would give Democrats a chance to show a united front on Iraq by calling for Rumsfeld's dismissal.

Rumsfeld has said he has offered his resignation before, and President Bush has refused it. In April, Bush said that he wanted Rumsfeld to stay, declaring, "I'm the decider."

Appeaser comments draw fire

Rumsfeld outraged many Democratic leaders with a speech Tuesday to the American Legion convention in Utah, accusing critics of the 3-year-old war of turning a blind eye to "a new type of fascism" and "returning to that old mentality of 'Blame America first.' " (Full story)

But with U.S. troops trying to quell a wave of sectarian violence in Baghdad, Boxer and other Democrats placed the blame for American troubles in Iraq squarely on Rumsfeld. (Watch as Democrats accuse Rumsfeld of political rant -- 2:43)

"This latest Rumsfeld rampage cannot stand," Boxer said in a statement Thursday. "By comparing critics of this administration's policies in Iraq with those who wanted to appease fascism and Nazism in the run-up to World War II, he is slandering the majority of the American people, who oppose the war in Iraq."

Boxer's proposal states that Rumsfeld failed to plan adequately for the U.S. occupation of Iraq and ignored the rise of the insurgency that followed. It cites the criticism of retired generals, some of whom say Rumsfeld ignored military advice before the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

House Democrats may introduce resolution

CNN has learned that Democratic leaders in the House are discussing the possibility of offering a similar "no-confidence" vote when Congress reconvenes in September. One senior Democratic aide said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California supports the idea but needs to "vet it with our folks" before anything definitive would be announced.

Democrats hope opposition to the war -- which hit 61 percent in a CNN poll released last week -- will help them retake at least one house of Congress in November. The party strategist who discussed the idea said challengers could use the vote "to talk about the true colors of these individual incumbents."

"If Rob Simmons supports Rummy, you bet you'll see that in a 30-second ad," he said, referring to the Connecticut GOP congressman facing a challenge from Democrat Joe Courtney.

But White House counselor Dan Bartlett said Democratic calls to begin pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq "would be a disaster for the security of the American people."

"It doesn't matter what we debate on this topic. Our enemies believe it's the central front of the war on terror," Bartlett said. "So if we don't get the job done, they will view that as a victory, and that will be a huge setback."

Many Democrats have backed a phased-withdrawal of troops from Iraq, beginning by the end of this year.

CNN's Dana Bash and Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.


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Democrats have directed much of their anger over the Iraq war's conduct at Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Some GOP lawmakers also have been critical.

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