- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 10, 2004

WATERLOO, Iowa — President Bush, buoyed by his improved performance against Democratic rival Sen. John Kerry in their second presidential debate, yesterday sought to build on the momentum by intensifying his attacks.

At rallies in Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota, the president reprised his debate line about the Massachusetts senator’s pro-tax, antiwar record: “You can run but you can’t hide.”

The crowds roared their approval at the new battle cry as Mr. Bush talked of “coming down the stretch” of the campaign. He portrayed his opponent as having fixated on gloom and doom at their second of three debates.

“After listening to the litany of complaints and the dour pessimism, I did all I could not to make a bad face,” he said at a breakfast gathering in St. Louis. “You must have optimism. You must believe in what you’re doing if you expect to lead.”

The president said he was pleased by yesterday’s free elections in Afghanistan, which the United States liberated nearly three years ago in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“Think about a society in which young girls couldn’t go to school and their mothers were whipped in the public square,” he said. “And today, they’re holding a presidential election.”

Mr. Bush noted that the first person to vote in the election was a 19-year-old woman who once had been forced to flee her war-torn homeland.

“She’s voting in this election because the United States of America believes that freedom is the Almighty God’s gift to each man and woman in this world,” he said. “And today is an appropriate day for Americans to remember and thank the men and women of our armed forces who liberated Afghanistan.”

The president also expressed his delight that Australian Prime Minister John Howard, one of his closest allies in the war on terror, was re-elected yesterday.

As Mr. Bush crisscrossed the Midwest, his aides crowed over what they called his domination over Mr. Kerry at Friday’s town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis. They said the president has only just begun to inform voters of Mr. Kerry’s long record of liberalism.

“There’s a lot more in his record that the American people are going to hear and know about by the time it’s all over,” said White House political strategist Karl Rove.

Informal Bush adviser Karen Hughes expressed incredulity at Mr. Kerry’s statements during the debate, which she said confirmed his reputation as a flip-flopper who will say anything for political advantage.

“I laughed out loud to hear him say that suddenly he’s for tort reform,” she said of Mr. Kerry, a lawyer who chose another lawyer, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, as his running mate.

Mr. Bush told the breakfast attendees that “frivolous lawsuits are driving good doctors out of business and driving up your cost of medicine.”

He went on to question Mr. Kerry’s credibility and judgment on a range of topics that came up in Friday’s debate.

“Much as he tried to obscure it, on issue after issue, my opponent showed why he’s earned the ranking the most liberal member of the United States Senate,” he said. “And several of the statements just don’t pass the credibility test.”

Turning to domestic policy, which will be the subject of Wednesday’s final debate, Mr. Bush aggressively painted Mr. Kerry as a big-government, tax-and-spend liberal.

“Senator Kerry was asked to look into the camera and promise he would not raise taxes for anyone who earns less than $200,000 a year,” he said. “The problem is, to keep that promise, he would have to break almost all of his other ones.”

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