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Legislator backs remark

WASHINGTON -- Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma said yesterday he did not intend to equate a vote against President Bush to a vote for Adolf Hitler, but stuck by recent comments that a Bush loss would be a win for Osama bin Laden.

During a speech to Republicans in Yukon, Okla., last Saturday, the first-term GOP congressman said that "if George Bush loses the election, Osama bin Laden wins the election," because enemies of the United States would interpret it as a sign of weakness.

Bin Laden is the alleged mastermind of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that killed nearly 3,000 people.

"What do you think Hitler would have thought if Roosevelt would've lost the election in 1944? He would have thought American resolve was" weakening, Cole said, according to a spokeswoman.

After local news reports paraphrased Cole as claiming a vote against Bush is a vote for Hitler, some Democrats demanded he apologize.

"What I am saying is that in a time of war, if our commander in chief is defeated in an election, our adversary will regard that as a triumph," Cole told CNN in an interview yesterday.

Representative Robert Matsui of California compared Cole's comments to Bush's new campaign commercials that use images from the terrorist attacks.

"The Republican Party's continuing attempt to politicize the 9/11 tragedy is an insult to the victims' families and our entire nation," Matsui said.

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