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Daschle takes issue with Bush's 'axis of evil'

Some have assailed the term
Some have assailed the term "axis of evil," used in Bush's State of the Union speech.  

From Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said Tuesday that he does not agree with President Bush's description of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil."

"It conjures up the notion that we have a single-minded, unilateral policy affecting all three countries identically, and I don't think that's the case," said the South Dakota Democrat. However, the Daschle agreed the three countries each pose a threat to America and the country needs to be united against them.

Daschle's latest comments marked a more critical tack than he took January 31, when he assessed the president's State of the Union address.

"It was important ... to make sure the American people were fully aware of the consequences of ignoring these three countries, so I think he was on the mark and we support him," Daschle said January 31.

Daschle's spokeswoman said Tuesday that the senator has had three weeks to give it more thought.

Transcript of Bush's State of the Union address 

"He still says it is appropriate. He is now just questioning the terminology, not the policy," said Ranit Schmelzer.

Daschle's office later released a series of quotes from notable figures, including Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska, and Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security adviser for Bush's father, President George Herbert Walker Bush. They have questioned the younger Bush's use of the phrase and its effect on some allies' support of the U.S.

Republicans, who first heard Daschle criticize the label "axis" description in a television interview Monday night, privately accused him of playing politics.

"They complain there is no clarity of message on our foreign policy, then criticize us when we have the most clear message yet," one White House aide complained of Daschle.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, disagreed. "President Bush is speaking the truth, what we hope will come out of it is change," said Lott, who likened the term to former President Ronald Reagan's assessment of the Soviet Union as an "evil empire."




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