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Democratic Leaders Blast Bush’s Credibility, Economic Plan in ‘Prebuttal’ to President’s National Address

Democratic leaders attacked President Bush on Monday in advance of his State of the Union address, saying his economic policies favor the wealthy and questioning the need for war with Iraq.

In a speech delivered at the National Press Club, Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) said the president suffers from a “credibility gap.”

“The Bush administration offers a credibility gap with a new twist: This is a White House that promises one thing knowing full well it is delivering another,” he railed.

“While promising relief to hard-pressed middle-class families, the White House delivers a reward to wealthy investors,” Daschle said, referring to the corporate dividends tax cut at the centerpiece of Bush’s $674 billion economic stimulus plan.

Daschle teamed up with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to deliver a one-two punch in a double event they billed as a “prebuttal” to Tuesday’s speech.

Pelosi used Bush’s words of one year ago to drive home her point that he has done too little to jump-start the economy.

“Last year, President Bush [said] … that his economic plan could be summarized in a single word: jobs. Unfortunately, his record can be summed up in one phrase: loss of jobs,” she said, adding that 2.3 million private-sector jobs have been lost since Bush took office.

“For two years, the president has had numerous opportunities to put this economy back on track,” she continued. “But the administration has chosen to reject every single economic option except one: tax cuts for the wealthy.”

As Pelosi derided Bush’s plan as the “Joe Millionaire tax plan,” referring to the popular Fox reality show in which contestants are told the beau they seek is a millionaire when in fact he is a low-wage construction worker, she and Daschle used strong rhetoric to dispel the notion that Democrats do not have a unified message.

“We speak with one voice,” Daschle said about his Caucus. While acknowledging that Democrats have several counterproposals to Bush’s $674 billion plan, Daschle said they all adhere to four key principles: that any stimulus must be immediate, broad-based, fiscally conservative, and assist state governments.

“We’re making a fight to the finish on the economy,” Pelosi added.

Daschle also chastised Bush for seeming more prepared to attack Iraq than North Korea, which the Minority Leader believes is the greater threat.

“North Korea has long-range missile capacity,” he said. “Iraq does not. North Korea is believed to have nuclear weapons. Iraq does not.”

When asked later why Bush has prioritized the Iraqi and North Korean threats the way he has, Daschle said he thinks it has something to do with former President Bill Clinton.

“The president has made a big mistake in ignoring North Korea for the past 18 months,” he said, adding that he did so because Clinton had had “some success” in neutralizing North Korea and in starting a dialogue with the country.

He said Bush’s focus on North Korea, a member of his “axis of evil,” has come in “fits and starts” and now leaves direct talks as the only way of dealing with the communist nation.

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