- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2004

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — President Bush fired back at his increasingly critical Democratic opponents yesterday, saying they can’t be trusted to adequately protect the nation from terrorist threats.

“Our opponents have not offered much in the way of strategy to win the war,” Mr. Bush said. “So far, all we hear is a lot of old bitterness and partisan anger.

“Anger is not an agenda for the future of America. We will take on the big issues with optimism and resolve and determination,” he said. “We stand ready to lead our country for the next four years.”

The Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination, especially front-runner Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, have hammered Mr. Bush for his execution of the war on terror and slow job growth.

Mr. Bush, however, made clear at a $2,000-a-plate fund-raiser yesterday that his re-election campaign will emphasize his record as a war-time president.

“On national security, Americans have the clearest possible choice,” Mr. Bush told 1,000 supporters in a 10-minute speech. “Our opponents say they approve of bold action in the world, but only if no other government disagrees. Yet America must never outsource our national-security decisions to leaders of other governments.”

The president accused Democratic opponents of wanting to fight the war on terror “with legal papers” rather than with military might.

“Some of our opponents are skeptical that the war on terrorism is really a war at all,” Mr. Bush said. “They view terrorism as more of a crime, a problem that can be solved with law enforcement and indictments.”

Mr. Bush said that approach, taken by the Clinton administration after al Qaeda’s first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, was a failure.

“The matter was handled by courts and thought by some to be settled,” Mr. Bush said. “Terrorists were still plotting against us and drawing up more ambitious plans. After the chaos and carnage of September 11, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers.”

The president’s remarks were similar to those in a speech Monday before the Republican Governors Association that kicked off his re-election campaign and were a marked contrast to his relatively tame policy addresses in the past few weeks.

At a Kentucky pipe-production plant, Mr. Bush said his tax cuts helped spur the economy, and he remained optimistic about future job growth.

“I believe in the entrepreneurial spirit,” Mr. Bush said to a hand-picked gathering at the ISCO Industries plant. “For the sake of our economy, for the sake of American families, for the sake of small-business owners and for the sake of job creation, the tax cuts need to be permanent.”

Kentucky, which Mr. Bush won by 16 percentage points in 2000, has lost 25,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001.

Mr. Bush’s planned speech and fund-raiser at North Carolina yesterday was called off owing to snow in Charlotte. His campaign, nonetheless, collected money from the event, bringing in $2.4 million in two stops.

Mr. Kerry was expected to give a speech today about national security and terrorism during a campaign visit to Los Angeles.

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