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Reid, Pelosi Plan ‘Prebuttal’

In their first national appearance together, Congress’ two top Democratic leaders will launch a scathing rebuke of President Bush this morning, accusing him of manufacturing “crises” at home and creating a credibility gap abroad.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plan to use a joint appearance today at the National Press Club to wage a pre-emptive strike on Bush before Wednesday’s State of the Union address, with Pelosi attacking the president’s domestic policies and Reid taking on the White House’s handling of Iraq and global affairs.

Reid will accuse Bush of talking tough on Iraq, terrorism and spreading democracy, but failing to create a policy that is “as strong and brave and decent as the heroes who serve in uniform.”

In an early draft of remarks given to Roll Call, Reid uses the word “strong” or “stronger” three times in the first six paragraphs to refer to the new Democratic strategy for Iraq and the war on terror.

With exit polls from the November elections showing that Bush won a solid majority of voters who were most concerned about terrorism, Reid plans to lay out an agenda that calls for increasing the overall size of the military by 40,000 troops over the next two years and adding 2,000 Special Forces troops specifically to fight in the ongoing battle with Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network.

In a draft of Pelosi’s remarks obtained Friday, the House Democratic leader hurls charges at Bush’s goal of reforming Social Security, arguing that the administration is trying to scare Americans into believing the system is in immediate peril to bolster his push to privatize it.

“In President Bush’s administration, we have seen a propensity to manufacture crises where none exist, and then turn to preordained ideas as the solutions to them,” Pelosi will say. “As a result, this administration has often pursued solutions that only deepen the problems, and undermine the trust of the American people.”

The joint Pelosi-Reid appearance will give an early look into the new and burgeoning relationship between the two Democratic leaders. Pelosi is in her second term as House Democratic leader, while Reid has just began his first term as Senate leader.

The pair’s Democratic “prebuttal” address today is the second in as many years. Last year, Pelosi and then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) spoke for the party.

Reid and Pelosi will reunite Wednesday night after the State of the Union address to deliver the official Democratic response. During that address, the two will switch roles: Reid will focus on domestic issues while Pelosi takes up foreign affairs.

In today’s appearance, however, Pelosi will charge Republicans and Bush of trying to cut Social Security benefits by 40 percent, and she will vow not to allow the administration to “turn this proud achievement of the New Deal into a raw deal for millions of Americans.”

Pelosi will call Social Security a “promise kept from generation to generation” and will urge Bush to “not betray this trust.” She will argue that Democrats will insist on four principles for reform: Do not harm the middle class, do not add to the deficit, do not cut benefits, and promote overall retirement security and independence.

The California Democrat will say that despite the Bush administration’s “false declaration,” there is still time for lawmakers and the White House to fully review and fix it.

Pelosi will also make a case more generally that her party believes progress is the country’s hallmark, and that Americans should never “confine their hopes and dreams to what appears to be possible.”

Reid will finger the administration’s Iraq policy as the biggest gap between “rhetoric and reality,” noting that the initial reasons for launching the war — the alleged presence of weapons of mass destruction and links to al Qaeda — now have been set aside. Today’s speech takes place after Sunday’s planned elections in Iraq — a historic milestone fraught with peril because of the heavy campaign by insurgents to disrupt activity at the polls.

On the sensitive subject of troop withdrawal from Iraq, Reid will demand that Bush create an “exit strategy,” but he will not specify what he wants that strategy to be and will not set a specific timeline, as some in his party have called for.

In the draft, Reid refers to “bigger threats to our national security” than Iraq, specifically nuclear activity in Iran and North Korea. Once again, using tough language in an area where Democrats have been perceived as being weaker than Republicans, Reid urges Bush to adopt policies so that “America [can stand] tall again as the real superpower that we are.”

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