May 14, 2004
Matsui Enters the Fray
Is Your Partisanship Showing? Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Matsui of California told CongressDaily Thursday that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld should resign—a comment that will likely fuel Republican charges of Democratic partisanship as Capitol Hill struggles to deal with the fallout from the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. Matsui is the second-highest ranking House Democrat to call for the resignation—joining House Minority Leader Pelosi—since the story broke two weeks ago. “I think [Rumsfeld] has made too many mistakes,” said Matsui. “We need a fresh look at [Iraq] in order to get it right,” he added, “and as much as I respect [Rumsfeld], I don’t think he can accomplish that.”
Both parties are lobbing charges of election-year politicking as Iraq policy and accountability over prisoner abuse dominate debate in Congress. GOP members and aides say Democrats are using “politics and not policy” to make judgments on Iraq, pointing to Pelosi’s call for Rumsfeld’s resignation even before he testified to the House and Senate Armed Services committees, as well as a DCCC e-mail petition circulated within hours of Pelosi’s announcement calling for Rumsfeld’s resignation. “I don’t see anything wrong with [the petition], it’s a way for representative government to have a voice,” Matsui said.
But Republicans argue that a campaign committee is not the appropriate venue to have that voice. “[Democrats] can’t say this isn’t about winning elections when they call for Rumsfeld’s resignation in an e-mail that has links to a site where you can donate money to the DCCC,” said a senior House GOP aide.
For their part, Republicans have seized on any Democratic critiques of the war or the handling of the prisoner crisis, with House Majority Leader DeLay leading the highly charged rhetoric. DeLay has proclaimed that “the national Democratic Party has declared its surrender in the war on terror,” and that “Democrats are more concerned about winning the White House than winning the war on terror.” During his weekly meeting with reporters Tuesday, DeLay said that Democratic policies contributed to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “We tried it their way, and we got 9/11,” he said. Matsui characterized DeLay’s recent comments as “McCarthy-like,” adding, “[DeLay] makes such outlandish statements with nothing to base it on.”
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