New York Times
September 8, 2004
COLUMBIA, Mo., Sept. 7 - Stepping up the battle over national security, Vice President Dick Cheney warned on Tuesday that the country would be at risk of a terror attack if it made "the wrong choice" in November, and President Bush accused Senator John Kerry of adopting the antiwar language of his Democratic primary rival Howard Dean.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney delivered their accusations in separate appearances as Mr. Kerry, for the second day in a row, attacked Mr. Bush's "wrong choices." The Democratic contender said that of all of them "the most catastrophic choice is the mess that he has made in Iraq."The debate was underscored as the deaths of American military personnel and Defense Department civilians working in Iraq reached 1,000.
Mr. Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, called it a "tragic milestone" and a reminder that "we must meet our sacred obligation to all our troops to do all we can to make the right decisions in Iraq so that we can bring them home as soon as possible."
Mr. Bush never mentioned the figure on a bus tour across Missouri. But at the very moment he was criticizing Mr. Kerry as having flip-flopped on Iraq, his press secretary, Scott McClellan, told reporters that the 1,000 men and women had died "so that we defeat the ideologies of hatred and tyranny."
[On Wednesday morning, President Bush commented on U.S. military deaths in Iraq during a meeting with congressional leaders, saying "we mourn every loss of life."]
As the candidates tried to discuss the economy- Mr. Bush hailed the benefits of his tax cuts for small businesses and Mr. Kerry warned that the administration's tax policy encouraged jobs to move overseas - Iraq and terrorism once again fueled their increasingly bitter cross-country argument an issue that is likely to remain front and center.
"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice," Mr. Cheney told a crowd of 350 people in Des Moines, "because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."
He also said if Mr. Kerry was elected the nation risked lapsing to a "pre-9/11 mind-se t'' where attacks are viewed as criminal acts, not part of a war against terrorism.
Mr. Kerry's running mate, Senator John Edwards, promptly said Mr. Cheney had "crossed the line."
"What he said to the American people,'' Mr. Edwards said, "was that if you go to the polls in November and elect anyone other than us, then another terrorist attack occurs, it's your fault. This is un-American.''
Anne Womack, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cheney, said that the vice president's comment was taken out of context, and that he was addressing policy differences.
"Whoever is elected is going to face the prospect of another terrorist attack,'' Ms. Womack said. "The question is whether we will have the right policies in place to protect our country." Mr. Kerry plans to speak on Wednesday about mistakes in Iraq from the restored train station in Cincinnati. That is where Mr. Bush la id out his argument nearly two years ago that President Saddam Hussein of Iraq was amassing large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and might soon be able to strike the United States.
No evidence of weapons of mass destruction has surfaced in Iraq.
Mr. Kerry's campaign also plans a new advertisement, "Wrong Choices," that links the war and domestic and economic issues. The spot opens with an announcer saying, "George Bush - $200 billion for Iraq," and continues: "In America, lost jobs and rising health care costs. George Bush's wrong choices have weakened us here at home."
For his part, from his first stop this morning on a football field in Lee's Summit to a late-afternoon rally at a fairgrounds here, Mr. Bush ridiculed Mr. Kerry for saying on Monday that Iraq was "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"He woke up yesterday morning with yet another new position," Mr. Bush told more than 10,000 people gathered for a breakfast-hour rally. "And this one is not even his own. It is that of his one-time rival, Howard Dean.
"He even used the same words Howard Dean did, back when he supposedly disagreed with him. No matter how many times Senator Kerry flip-flops, we were right to make America safer by removing Saddam Hussein from power."