- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 22, 2004

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. — President Bush yesterday said Sen. John Kerry’s repeated flip-flops on Iraq are sending “mixed signals,” demoralizing U.S. troops trying to secure the war-torn nation and discouraging Iraqis working toward free elections.

Stepping up his rhetoric a day after he and his opponent traded sharp words over Iraq, the president targeted Mr. Kerry by declaring that the Democratic presidential candidate lacks the resolve required to stay the course.

“You cannot lead the war against terror if you wilt or waver when times get tough,” Mr. Bush said at a campaign rally.

“My opponent is sending mixed signals,” he said. “You cannot expect the Iraqi people to stand up and do the hard work of democracy if you’re pessimistic about their ability to govern themselves. You cannot expect our troops to continue to do the hard work if they hear mixed messages from Washington, D.C.”

Mr. Kerry fired back, saying the president is “living in a make-believe world, unwilling to tell the truth or understand the situation in Iraq.”

“Even today, he blundered again, saying there are only a handful of terrorists in Iraq,” he said.

“I have laid out specific steps to win the war, not to change, not to retreat, steps to win. George Bush is trying to fight a phantom here, because he won’t tell the American people the truth, so he sets up something that’s not a real issue and attacks it,” Mr. Kerry said.

But Mr. Bush mocked Mr. Kerry for his speech this week in New York, in which the Massachusetts senator said, “We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure.”

“He has had many different positions on Iraq,” Mr. Bush said. “Incredibly, this week he said he would prefer the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein to the situation in Iraq today.”

The audience booed loudly.

“I’ll continue to speak clearly. I’ll continue to lead. And I’m confident we’ll achieve our objectives, and the world will be better off and more secure,” the president said.

Later in the day, Mr. Bush traveled to Latrobe, Pa., hometown of golfer Arnold Palmer. Yesterday’s was Mr. Bush’s 37th visit to the state he lost by four percentage points in 2000. On his way to Latrobe by helicopter, he surveyed flood damage in Allegheny County, where the remnants of Hurricane Ivan left heavy flooding.

Both of his stops took him to spots he lost in 2000, one county by 10 points, the other by about five. Mr. Bush recently has pulled firmly ahead in the polls, but four new Pennsylvania polls show the race as a statistical tie. He spoke in Latrobe in front of a sign that said: “Pennsylvania — Keystone to Victory.”

Meanwhile, the Bush campaign released a new ad that shows Mr. Kerry windsurfing left and right, with a voice-over by a narrator who notes the Massachusetts senator’s positions shift “whichever way the wind blows.”

Senior Bush adviser Karen Hughes said “his choice of leisure activities is a lighthearted way of making a very serious point.”

“He may have a case of selective amnesia when it comes to some of the things he’s said,” Mrs. Hughes said, adding that the commercial, airing in battleground states, “reinforces his shifting positions on the very important issue of war and peace.”

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