U.S. congressional Democrats are seizing on a new book by a veteran American journalist to underscore their argument that President Bush has been misleading the American people about the situation in Iraq.
Democrats say the book, State of Denial by journalist Bob Woodward, offers compelling evidence that President Bush is not telling the American people the truth about the war in Iraq.
In the book, Woodward describes deep divisions within the Bush administration over the course of the war, and conflicts between what White House and Pentagon officials have said publicly and privately about Iraq.
Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, notes Woodward writes that the President, in November 2003, did not want any members of his cabinet to acknowledge there was an insurgency in Iraq.
"He does not want to acknowledge reality. If we are going to change course and change the dynamic in Iraq, we have to end this state of denial, and bring some reality to the president and to his administration. It is essential that if we are going to maximize the chances for success in Iraq, that we change course in Iraq, change the dynamic in Iraq, and for that to happen, the President has got to end his stubborn insistence that things are going just fine in Iraq."
In the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of California, offered similar comments. "As far as the President himself is concerned, I don't know if he has a tin ear (does not hear) to anything that he doesn't agree with, or whether his advisers are not presenting him with the facts, but in any case, what he says is not in touch with reality," she said.
In his book, Woodward writes that the president's former chief of staff, Andy Card, twice tried to persuade Mr. Bush to fire Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The president refused.
Senate Democrats, including Carl Levin and the chamber's top Democrat, Senator Harry Reid, renewed their calls for Rumsfeld's resignation.
At the White House, spokesman Tony Snow was dismissive of Woodward's book. "The book is sort of like cotton candy. It kind of melts on contact. We've read this book before. This tends to repeat what we have seen in a number of other books that have been out this year where people are ventilating old disputes over troop levels. Bob Woodward is a guy who comes up with details other people don't have," he said.
Snow also reacted to comments Woodward made in a CBS 60 Minutes interview, in which the journalist alleged the Bush administration has not revealed the full extent of the violence against U.S. troops in Iraq. "Now when it comes, for instance, to the issue of assaults on troops, this is something on which the president is regularly briefed and people know about it. Nobody has tried to mislead anyone about it," he said.
In the CBS interview, excerpts of which have been released prior to its broadcast Sunday night, Woodward says there are now at least 800 attacks per week in Iraq - and four per hour against U.S. forces. He says the situation is getting worse, despite what U.S. officials are saying in public.
Woodward's book comes just days after news reports quoted from an intelligence report that concluded the Iraq war has become a recruiting tool for Islamic militants and has increased the threat of global terrorism. President Bush later authorized the release of portions of the report.