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Inside Politics

Reid blasts Bush over RNC document

Minority leader: President's calls for unity appear 'false'

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CNN's Dana Bash on Harry Reid's anger.
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Harry Reid
George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Angered by Republican criticism, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday suggested President Bush's calls for unity are proving "absolutely false."

"We know when he came here, he said he wanted to be a uniter, not a divider," Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill, referring to comments Bush made in the 2000 presidential campaign.

"I'm beginning to think that those statements are just absolutely false."

Reid, a Nevada Democrat, made his comments in response to a document -- billed as a "research briefing" -- the Republican National Committee began distributing this week.

The document paints Reid as an "obstructionist" bent on blocking judicial nominees and raising taxes.

Republicans used a similar campaign against Reid's predecessor, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who was voted out of office last November.

"While President Bush and Republicans in Congress are working to win the war on terror, preserve Social Security and lower health care costs, Harry Reid and his taxpayer-funded war room are focused on obstruction," RNC communications director Brian Jones says in the document.

Speaking on the Senate floor Monday, Reid called on Bush to personally repudiate the attack and urged the president to use his influence to have the material pulled.

Reid later went to the White House for a previously scheduled dinner with Bush and the first lady.

He told reporters Tuesday that Bush brought the issue up during dinner, although he would not elaborate about what the president said.

But clearly, it did not sit well with the Senate's highest-ranking Democrat.

"When you have a real bad chafe ... it's hard to get soothed," Reid said.

Democratic sources said Bush told Reid at the dinner that he knew nothing about the RNC mailing and distribution of the material.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan called the dinner a "good visit," but he refused to say whether Bush would call on the RNC to back off.

"The president's focus is on reaching out to all members who want to work together to advance our shared priorities," McClellan said.

"The president wants to work closely -- that includes working closely with Senator Reid."

Reid, however, was unpersuaded, saying that it was his understanding that the RNC is "controlled by George Bush."

"I want the boys at the White House, the girls at the White House, the men and women at the White House, everyone to understand, I haven't lost one wink of sleep over the attack yesterday," Reid said.

"They're not going to frighten me. You know, they call me an obstructionist -- they're destructionists."

He vowed to work for "fair, reasonable" legislation for the American people: "I'm going to continue doing that, no matter what personal attacks they make on me."

Democratic sources said Reid is fighting back to avoid being "Daschle-ized," a reference to the smear campaign that marginalized the former Democratic leader.

GOP sources have said this is hardball, that the Democratic National Committee does the same thing and that Reid has now entered the big time political stage and he should get used to it.

The RNC briefing says Reid is the "chief Democrat obstructionist" and "out of touch with mainstream America," blocking judicial nominees, flip-flopping on Social Security reform and leading the fight to block the formation of the Department of Homeland Security.

The document is headlined "Reid all about it: Who is Harry Reid?" A secondary headline reads: "Sen. Minority Leader determined to obstruct President Bush's agenda."

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