"Relentless" Bush's "Assault" on Democrats at CPAC?

Steven Lee Myers and Michael Cooper wrote Saturday's off-lead on President Bush's speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, "Bush Presses for G.O.P. Unity; Party Set to Focus on Security." Judging by the Times' word choice, the reporters seemed a little perturbed Bush would dare deliver a partisan speech to a partisan gathering.

For Mr. Bush, Friday's speech presaged a role his aides said he would play all year: using the power of the presidency to shape the agenda, defend his own record and attack his Democratic critics on national security as relentlessly as he has since the 2002 midterm election.


"There's another philosophy, and it's advanced by decent people who see the world differently," Mr. Bush said of the Democrats, returning to a refrain of speeches that have become increasingly partisan as the national campaigns intensified late last year.

"They tend to think Washington has the answers to our problems," he went on. "They tend to believe our country only succeeds under the expansive federal government. They tend to be suspicious of America's exercise of global leadership - unless, of course, we get a permission slip from international organizations."

The thin-skinned Times considered Bush's mild phrases an "assault" on Democrats:

Mr. Cheney joined the assault on Friday at a Republican Party fund-raiser in Harrisburg, Pa., saying: "The important thing for all of us to remember is that six and a half years after 9/11, the war on terror is still very real, that it will not be won on the defensive, and that we have to proceed on many fronts at the same time." Mr. Bush's role in the coming campaign remains unclear.

But they said that speeches like Friday's were an example of how he would be of use in a general campaign, especially with the party's conservative base.

A prominent booster from the party's conservative core could help soothe some of the anger and bitterness from the right over Mr. McCain's candidacy, even as Mr. McCain reaches out to independents and others in the political center.