Members of the Democratic Party in the United States have begun to criticize President Bush's handling of the war on terrorism, especially in the wake of the terrorist attacks this month in Saudi Arabia and Morocco.
In an appearance on CBS television recently, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts said the Bush administration needs to do a better job in fighting al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.
"We need to be stronger, and smarter, and tougher, and particularly we've got to have a more effective outreach in our foreign policy to build the cooperation necessary to truly wage a war on terror," asserted senator Kerry, who is among the nine Democrats seeking the party's 2004 presidential nomination.
Mr. Kerry and other Democrats began to sharpen their criticism of Mr. Bush after the attacks in Saudi Arabia and Morocco. Eight Americans were among the 34 killed in the Saudi blasts in Riyadh. U.S. and Saudi officials say they believe al-Qaida was responsible for the suicide bombings.
Senator Bob Graham of Florida is another Democratic presidential contender who has criticized Mr. Bush's handling of the war on terror. Mr. Graham spoke to NBC television about what he would do differently if he were president.
"I would pursue the war in Afghanistan to victory," he explained. "We've allowed al-Qaida, after being substantially crippled a year ago, to regenerate as we've moved military and intelligence capabilities from Afghanistan to get ready for the war in Iraq. I would also tell the Syrians that they're continuing to provide sanctuary and safe harbor for some of the most violent terrorist groups in the world, such as Hezbollah, is going to come to an end or we will put together an international coalition as we did in Afghanistan to end it for them."
In his weekly radio address after the Saudi bombings, President Bush defended his record in fighting terrorism. He said his administration has made important progress in dismantling al-Qaida, cutting off sources of terrorist funding, and making certain no terrorists gain weapons of mass destruction from Iraq. However, Mr. Bush said the Saudi attacks showed the war on terror continues.
"The enemies of freedom are not idle and neither are we," said president Bush. "Our government is taking unprecedented measures to defend the homeland. And from Pakistan to the Philippines, to the Horn of Africa, we are hunting down al-Qaida killers. So far, nearly one-half of al-Qaida's senior operatives have been captured or killed. And we will remain on the hunt until they are all brought to justice."
Mr. Bush's fellow Republicans in Congress are also defending the administration's record in fighting terrorism. Republican Senator and Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Pat Roberts told CBS the Democrats should not blame the president for every attack that occurs.
"What now we have are Democratic candidates saying that every bomb attack, or every attack by any terrorist can be laid at the doorstep of the president and the commander in chief," he explained. "I think that's counter-productive, I think it's the low road, and I think it is very risky. I think it gets at [hurts] the esprit de corps of the intelligence community. We've had great success."
Despite the Democrats' criticisms of Mr. Bush, the American public largely approves of the president's handling of the war on terrorism. It remains to be seen whether Mr. Bush will be vulnerable to Democratic attacks on the issue in the 2004 presidential election.