(AP) President Bush criticized Democratic challenger John Kerry today for suggesting that the anti-terror battle should reduce terrorists to “a nuisance” from the current full-time crisis.
“I couldn’t disagree more,” Bush said. “Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance. Our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive, destroying terrorist networks and spreading freedom and liberty around the world.”
Kerry said in an interview in The New York Times Magazine on Sunday, “We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives but they’re a nuisance.” The Bush campaign is also criticizing the comment in a new television ad.
Phil Singer, a Kerry-Edwards spokesman, said the Republicans were taking a single Kerry sentence out of context. “Considering that George Bush doesn’t think we can win the war on terror, let Osama bin Laden escape and rushed into Iraq with no plan to win the peace, it’s no surprise that his campaign is distorting every word John Kerry has ever said,” the spokesman said.
Bush was accompanied by daughter Jenna Bush as well as George P. Bush, the president’s Hispanic nephew who often helps court Hispanic voters for the Bush ticket in areas such as this with large Hispanic populations. New Mexico was won by Democrat Al Gore by just 366 votes in 2000 and could be tight again this year.
With people wrapped in blankets against the chilly morning and a sulfur smell coming from nearby oil wells, the town was clearly excited to have Bush for a visit. Schools were shut down, a car lot along the motorcade route had the flashers on its cars blinking in welcome and the event was expanded to accommodate all those who wanted to come.
Across the state and only minutes after Bush finished speaking, Kerry was holding a town hall meeting in Santa Fe.
Later today, Bush was hosting a lunch fund-raiser in Denver for Republican Pete Coors, who is running for a Senate seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
The stops begin several days of travel through Western battlegrounds with Bush talking tougher.
Bush has delighted Republican supporters with a harder-hitting stance against Kerry, hoping to stunt the momentum the Massachusetts senator gained from the first debate and a week of difficult news for Bush on Iraq and the economy.
“There’s a lot more in (Kerry’s) record that the American people are going to hear and know about by the time it’s all over,” said Karl Rove, Bush’s chief political adviser.
Looking ahead to Wednesday’s final debate in Tempe, Ariz., set to focus entirely on domestic issues, Bush is devoting more time to talking about Kerry’s record on taxes, health care and other domestic issues.