- The Washington Times - Friday, October 1, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Excerpts from last night’s presidential debate at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla.:

President Bush: “I understand everybody in this country doesn’t agree with the decisions I’ve made. And I made some tough decisions. But people know where I stand. …”

Sen. John Kerry: “I believe in being strong and resolute and determined. And I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are. But we also have to be smart. And smart means not diverting your attention from the real war on terror in Afghanistan against Osama bin Laden and taking if off to Iraq. …”

Mr. Bush: “My opponent looked at the same intelligence I looked at and declared in 2002 that Saddam Hussein was a grave threat. He also said in December of 2003 that anyone who doubts that the world is safer without Saddam Hussein does not have the judgment to be president. I agree with him. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein. …

“Saddam Hussein had no intention of disarming. Why should he? He had 16 other [U.N. Security Council] resolutions and nothing took place.

“My opponent talks about inspectors. The facts are that [Saddam] was systematically deceiving the inspectors. That wasn’t going to work. That’s kind of a pre-September 10th mentality, to hope that somehow resolutions and failed inspections would make this world a more peaceful place. …”

Mr. Kerry: “This president has made, I regret to say, a colossal error of judgment. And judgment is what we look for in the president of the United States of America.”

Mr. Bush: “Iraq is a central part in the war on terror. That’s why [Abu Musab] Zarqawi and his people are trying to fight us. Their hope is that we grow weary and we leave. The biggest disaster that could happen is that we not succeed in Iraq. We will succeed. We’ve got a plan to do so. …”

Mr. Kerry: “The president just talked about Iraq as a center of the war on terror. Iraq was not even close to the center of the war on terror before the president invaded it. The president made the judgment to divert forces from under General Tommy Franks, from Afghanistan, before the Congress even approved it to begin to prepare to go to war in Iraq. And he rushed the war in Iraq without a plan to win the peace. …”

Mr. Bush: “First of all, what my opponent wants you to forget is that he voted to authorize the use of force [in Iraq] and now says it’s the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place. I don’t see how you can lead this country to succeed in Iraq if you say wrong war, wrong time, wrong place. What message does that send our troops? What message does that send to our allies? What message does that send the Iraqis? …”

Mr. Kerry: “Yes, we have to be steadfast and resolved, and I am. … We can’t leave a failed Iraq. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a mistake of judgment to go there and take the focus off of Osama bin Laden. It was. Now, we can succeed. But I don’t believe this president can. I think we need a president who has the credibility to bring the allies back to the table and to do what’s necessary to make it so America isn’t doing this alone. …”

Mr. Bush: “Now, my opponent says he’s going to try to change the dynamics on the ground [in Iraq]. Well, Prime Minister Allawi was here. He is the leader of that country. He’s a brave, brave man. And when he came, after giving a speech to the Congress, my opponent questioned his credibility. You can’t change the dynamics on the ground if you’ve criticized the brave leader of Iraq. One of his campaign people alleged that Prime Minister Allawi was like a puppet. That’s no way to treat somebody who’s courageous and brave that is trying to lead his country forward. …

Mr. Kerry: “Now, Prime Minister Allawi came here, and he said the terrorists are pouring over the border. That’s Allawi’s assessment. The National Intelligence Assessment that was given to the president in July said, best case scenario, more of the same of what we see today; worst case scenario, civil war. I can do better. …”

Mr. Bush: “The reason why Prime Minister Allawi said they’re coming across the border is because he recognizes that this is a central part of the war on terror. They’re fighting us because they’re fighting freedom. They understand that a free Afghanistan or a free Iraq will be a major defeat for them. And those are the stakes. And that’s why it is essential we not leave, that’s why it’s essential we hold the line, that’s why it’s essential we win. And we will. Under my leadership we’re going to win this war in Iraq. …”

Mr. Kerry: “I think the reason that we’re not saying send American troops in [to Sudan] at this point is several-fold. Number one, we can do this through the African Union, providing we give them the logistical support. Right now all the president is providing is humanitarian support. We need to do more than that. …

“I also believe that … one of the reasons we can’t do it is we’re overextended. … We’ve got guards and reserves who are doing double duties. … Nine out of our 10 active-duty divisions committed to Iraq one way or the other, either going, coming or preparing.

“So, this is the way the president has overextended the United States. That’s why, in my plan, I add two active-duty divisions to the United States Army, not for Iraq, but for our general demands across the globe. …

“But I’ll tell you this: As president, if it took American forces to some degree to coalesce the African Union, I’d be prepared to do it, because we could never allow another Rwanda. It’s a moral responsibility for us in the world. …”

Mr. Bush: “My concern about the senator is that, in the course of this campaign I’ve been listening very carefully to what he says, and he changes positions on the war on Iraq. … Mixed messages send the wrong signals to our troops. Mixed messages send the wrong signals to our allies. Mixed messages send the wrong signals to the Iraqi citizens. …

Mr. Kerry: “There are some 600-plus tons of unsecured material still in the former Soviet Union and Russia. At the rate that the president is currently securing that, it will take 13 years to get it.

“I did a lot of work on this. I wrote a book about it several years ago, maybe six or seven years ago, called, ‘The New War,’ which saw the difficulties of this international criminal network. And back then, we intercepted a suitcase in a Middle Eastern country with nuclear materials in it, and the black market sale price was about $250 million.

“Now, there are terrorists trying to get their hands on that stuff today.”

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