WASHINGTON -- Democrats called on President Bush Tuesday to ask the Republican Party to pull ads that attack five incumbent Democratic senators while quoting Bush's call for unity in his State of the Union address.
The ads criticize the Democratic senators for opposing the GOP's version of economic stimulus legislation, even though several of the Democrats have supported Bush on issues like the tax cut and the war on terror.
Republicans said the television commercials -- aimed at Sens. Max Baucus in Montana, Tim Johnson in South Dakota and Jean Carnahan in Missouri -- went on the air Friday and will stay on for at least a week. Radio commercials will target Carnahan as well as Sen. Paul Wellstone in Minnesota and Sen. Tom Harkin in Iowa.
The ads say that in a time of national unity, "partisan Democrats" scuttled President Bush's economic stimulus plan.
Republicans bought the ad time after the apparent collapse last week of efforts to pass economic stimulus legislation in the Senate.
"These ads coming from our commander in chief, who has called on us to stand together, are divisive," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "It sets a bad tone as Democrats continue to seek compromise on our nation's security and our economic needs.
"I call on the president to direct the Republican Party to pull this negative ad using his image off the air," she said.
'That's not partisan'
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer dismissed descriptions of the ads as partisan.
"It says the same things that the president has said repeatedly, which is it's important to pass a stimulus plan to get the economy going again and to help workers find jobs," Fleischer said. "That's not partisan, that's the president's policy, and it's a good message."
"I think honest disagreements about policy are the essence of what campaigns are all about," Fleischer said, "and this is an election year."
All five Democratic senators have been targeted for defeat by the Republicans next fall as part of their effort to overcome a one-seat Democratic majority in the Senate.