Video: Bush lashes out at Democrats

By David Gregory Chief White House correspondent
NBC News
updated 6/15/2005 7:50:06 PM ET 2005-06-15T23:50:06

WASHINGTON — Tuesday night at a glitzy GOP fund-raiser, President Bush took aim at Democrats for blocking his second-term agenda.

"On issue after issue they stand for nothing except obstruction, and this is not leadership," Bush told an audience at the President's Dinner, an annual fund-raiser put on by the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

On Wednesday there was more heat, as Bush warned of voter anger if Congress doesn't pass an energy bill to deal with rising gas prices.

"Summer's here, temperatures are rising and tempers will really rise if Congress doesn't pass an energy bill," said Bush at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

What's behind the White House hardball?

Frustration, mostly, with the president's second term in a summer slowdown, including:

  • Declining support for the war in Iraq;
  • The nomination of John Bolton to the United Nations still stalled;
  • And bipartisan opposition to a White House-backed free trade agreement with Central America.

Then, there's Social Security reform, with a spring-turned-summer offensive on private accounts.

"I'm going to keep telling people we've got a problem until it sinks in, because we've got one," said Bush on March 4 in Westfield, N.J. "The facts are irrefutable."

But it's proving to be a hard sell, even among some congressional Republicans who face voters next year.

The president's advisers and his critics agree now is a critical juncture of his second term.

"For him, now is the time to prove he's not a lame duck president," says Democratic strategist Steve McMahon. "And if he can't get something passed pretty soon, I think Congress and most of the American public will conclude just that."

Republicans counter it's the Democrats setting themselves up for a fall — as a party with complaints instead of alternatives.

Still, White House advisers concede the president will suffer if he appears less focused on  issues key to the public — the economy and Iraq. 

"What he needs to do over this summer is to make sure that it is clear to the American people that he's working on both of those problems," says Republican strategist David Winston.

President Bush knows what's at stake here is nothing short of his hold on Washington — his ability to get something done before the campaigning begins — this time without him on the ballot.

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