Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign Wednesday in the wake of a critical report on the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.
Senator Kerry made the comment during a campaign rally in Philadelphia, one day after the release of an independent report that placed some of the blame for the scandal on a failure of leadership in the defense department.
"The lack of responsibility for what has been one of the most severe miscalculations in any deployment of American forces in American history, I believe, lands in the civilian responsibility," said Mr. Kerry. "And I called months ago for Secretary Rumsfeld to take that responsibility, for the president to take that responsibility, and again today, as I have previously, I call for the resignation of the secretary of defense for failure to do what he should have done."
The independent report issued Tuesday did not recommend that Secretary Rumsfeld step down and there has been no suggestion that has even been contemplated.
Meanwhile, Kerry supporter and former senator Max Cleland tried to deliver a letter to President Bush at his ranch in Texas Wednesday that calls on him to denounce a political ad by a veterans group critical of Senator Kerry's wartime service in Vietnam.
Mr. Cleland is a veteran who lost three of his limbs in Vietnam. He was turned away from the president's ranch with the letter signed by nine Senate Democrats who are also veterans.
"We want George Bush to put up or shut up," said Mr. Cleland. "We want George Bush to stand up, come to the plate and say this is wrong, that an attack on the valorous service of a fellow American is wrong. And he is behind it and his campaign is behind it."
The Bush campaign says it has no involvement with the veterans group that produced the anti-Kerry ad. The group is called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth."
A Texas state official and Vietnam veteran, Jerry Patterson, offered to accept the Cleland letter but was rebuffed. Mr. Patterson also tried to present Mr. Cleland with a letter signed by Republican veterans who are supporting President Bush.
On Monday, the president praised Senator Kerry's war service and said he is opposed to all political ads paid for by independent groups operating separately of the presidential campaigns.
"I think we ought to be debating who best to be leading this country in the war against terror," said Mr. Bush. "And that is what I will continue to try to convince the American people of, is that I am the right person to lead the country in the war on terror. I think we ought to be looking forward and not backward."
Also Wednesday, a Republican lawyer for President Bush's re-election campaign resigned his position after he acknowledged that he has provided legal advice to the veteran's group criticizing Senator Kerry.