Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Bush Calls Kerry's Policies a Danger 'for World Peace'

The New York Times
October 5, 2004

Bush Calls Kerry's Policies a Danger 'for World Peace'

CLIVE, Iowa, Oct. 4 - President Bush charged Monday that Senator John Kerry's policies were "dangerous for world peace" as his campaign suddenly changed plans for an event on medical liability on Wednesday and scheduled a speech by Mr. Bush on terrorism and the economy instead.

On the eve of the vice-presidential debate, with polls showing that Mr. Bush lost ground after his debate with Mr. Kerry on Thursday, the pressures on the White House to regain the upper hand appeared to be mounting.

To that end, Mr. Bush flew to Iowa, one of the most closely contested states, to sign into law extensions of three popular middle-class tax cuts that he said Mr. Kerry had opposed and that Mr. Kerry's campaign said he did not.

Then the president attacked the senator in harsh terms on national security by referring to Mr. Kerry's vote against the first gulf war, in 1991, which drove Iraq from Kuwait.

"In 1991, when my dad was president, he saw a threat, and that was that Saddam Hussein was going to overrun Kuwait," said Mr. Bush, who appeared relaxed and in good spirits at an Ask President Bush forum despite the generally negative reviews of his debate performance.

If Mr. Kerry's vote had carried the day, the president said, "Saddam would not only have been in his palaces, that means he would have been in Kuwait, as well.''

"The policies of my opponent are dangerous for world peace,'' Mr. Bush said. "If they were implemented, they would make this world not more peaceful, but more dangerous."

The president also stepped up his ridicule of Mr. Kerry for his plan to hold a summit meeting to help solve the problems in Iraq.

"I've been to summits," Mr. Bush said as he paced in his shirtsleeves at the 7 Flags recreation center in Clive, eight miles north of Des Moines. "You don't bring terrorists to justice at summits. I can imagine him walking into the leaders of the world saying, 'We need your help, but Iraq is a mistake.' "

Mr. Kerry, Mr. Bush said, "has no plan.''

"A summit,'' he said, "won't solve the problem. Strong, consistent leadership is what this world needs."

A spokesman for the Kerry campaign, Phil Singer, responded: "If George Bush thinks John Kerry's plans to strengthen the military, build alliances and implement the 9/11 commission's intelligence reforms will make the world a more dangerous place, he's even more detached from reality than he demonstrated at the debate the other night."

The White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, said that Mr. Bush would travel Wednesday to Wilkes-Barre, Pa., as scheduled, but that the medical liability event had been postponed and that Mr. Bush would deliver a speech "on our nation's two highest priorities." Mr. McClellan said those were the economy and the campaign against terrorism. He said it would be a "significant speech."

It is unusual for the tightly scheduled White House to change plans so suddenly. But polls show that Mr. Bush's greatest electoral strength against Mr. Kerry remains his record on fighting terrorism. Medical liability is a far less potent issue.

Asked by reporters en route to Iowa on Air Force One whether the change in Wilkes-Barre was because of polls that show the race tightening, Mr. McClellan demurred.

"We're very well aware of those, of the polls," he said. "At this stage in the campaign, you always want to have some flexibility in your schedule."

Mr. Bush's first stop on Monday was in Des Moines, where he signed the tax legislation in a Y.M.C.A. gymnasium. The setting was in striking contrast to the splendors of the White House East Room, where Mr. Bush normally holds his signing ceremonies for significant bills.

The economy remains a major issue in Iowa, a state that Mr. Bush lost by a slim margin in 2000 and where polls now show him with a slight lead.

"The law I sign this morning comes at just the right time for America," Mr. Bush said.

The signature on the bill, which affects an estimated 94 million Americans, keeps three tax breaks from expiring on Jan. 1: a $1,000-a-child tax credit, a provision providing lower taxes for some married couples and a reduction of the tax rate from 15 percent to 10 percent on some income.

The president did not mention Mr. Kerry at the signing ceremony, which was officially a nonpartisan event. But he wasted no time in attacking the senator at his "Ask President Bush" campaign forum in Clive an hour later. Mr. Kerry, the president said, had voted against the very tax cuts he had just extended, and would raise taxes once in office.

"But we're not going to let him tax you,'' Mr. Bush said. "We're going to carry Iowa and the country in November."

In fact, Mr. Kerry has supported the three tax breaks that Mr. Bush extended, but he voted against them in 2001 because they were part of a broad tax-cut bill that he opposed. Mr. Kerry voted against the overall legislation on the ground that it primarily benefited the wealthy.

When the tax cuts are fully in place, more than 50 percent of the savings will go to the richest 1 percent of taxpayers.

Mr. Bush touched briefly on Mr. Kerry's proposals to pay for health care, which he said were "creeping toward 'Hillary Care,' " a reference to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's failed efforts as first lady to overhaul health care.

Mr. Kerry has called for expanding existing government programs for the poor and increasing subsidies for employer-based coverage.

Mr. Bush also promised that the government would continue the all-volunteer Army and that "we will not have a draft, so long as I am president of the United States."

Mr. McClellan said Mr. Bush had a session on Sunday to prepare for the second presidential debate with Mr. Kerry on Friday in St. Louis, a town-hall-style forum with audience questions, and would have more sessions this week. Aides said Ask President Bush forums were preparation, as well, even though participants were invited by Republicans and past questions have included many statements that simply praised Mr. Bush.

"There is some of that," Mr. McClellan acknowledged to reporters.