PINEHURST, N.C. -- Vice President Dan Quayle, in some of the most pointed administration criticism of Congress to date in the Persian Gulf crisis, accused unidentified Democrats of "playing politics" with the Middle East situation.
Some Democrats, he said, were attempting to portray their party as the party of peace and Republicans as the party of war, undermining public support for Mr. Bush's policies.
"Congress has not even sworn in its new members, yet already it is playing politics," Mr. Quayle told a meeting of Republican governors at this North Carolina golfing resort.
Mr. Quayle assailed the decision by Senate Armed Services Chairman Sam Nunn, D-Ga., to schedule critics of administration policy as the leadoff witnesses at its recent hearings.
But he declined to specify which Democrats he had in mind. "They know who they are," said David Beckwith, the vice president's spokesman.
Mr. Quayle, in assuming the traditional vice-presidential role of delivering a partisan fusillade against the political opposition, seemed to take a divergent line from other administration officials. Just last week, Secretary of State James A. Baker III said the administration welcomed the congressional hearings.
Mr. Quayle stressed that he was not criticizing all Democrats in Congress but said that "some" seemed "to have placed partisanship above statesmanship."
The hearings had been designed to undermine public support for Mr. Bush's policies, Mr. Quayle strongly suggested.
Mr. Quayle accused Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of launching a "political war against the United States. His target is American public opinion in general and the American Congress in particular."
The vice president expressed confidence that "when the chips are down" a majority in Congress would "rise above partisan politics."
But later, in answer to a question from Gov.-elect Richard Snelling of Vermont, he acknowledged that the administration faces a "dilemma" in trying to win congressional support for its Gulf policies because of the risk that would lead to a vote to limit the president's authority. Such a vote, he said, would "certainly" weaken allied support for the U.S.-led coalition in the region.