WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Sen. John Kerry yesterday warned parents and grandparents here that it’s “possible” that President Bush will reinstate the draft to handle the war in Iraq if re-elected, while promising that he would not take that step.
“If George Bush were to be re-elected — given the way that he has gone about this war, and given the avoidance of responsibility in North Korea, Iran and other places — it is possible,” he said. “I can’t tell you.
“I will tell you this: I will not reinstate the draft,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in response to a question from a member of the audience of a town-hall meeting here.
The answer, coming after his charge on Friday that Mr. Bush is planning a surprise post-election call-up of National Guard and reserve troops, is the second time in less than a week that Mr. Kerry has said the president’s pursuit of the war in Iraq could have a far-reaching impact at home.
The promise drew a standing ovation from the crowd here and a stern rebuke from Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt, who compared the statement to Mr. Kerry’s unwillingness earlier this week to rule out the possibility that the war in Iraq was an “illegal war.”
“The one thing John Kerry has demonstrated this week is his willingness to say whatever he believes will benefit him politically, regardless of its effect on our troops, our allies and our mission,” Mr. Schmidt said.
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and member of the Armed Services Committee, called the draft possibility an “urban legend” and called the statements “desperate and harmful to our troops.”
“While the president is working with allies and calling on the United Nations to help secure a democratic future in Iraq and the Middle East, Senator Kerry is busy spreading scare tactics and defeatism,” Mr. Cornyn said. “Sadly, his only plan seems to be fear, urban legends and conspiracy theories.”
After saying he would not reinstate the draft, Mr. Kerry quickly modified his stance to leave open that possibility if “the United States of America faced the kind of global attack or conflagration where everybody in America understood through an open democratic process we needed to defend this nation.”
The draft insinuation was one of several assertions made by Mr. Kerry recently, aimed at raising fears about a second term for Mr. Bush.
Mr. Kerry also told seniors here yesterday that Mr. Bush wants to give his political supporters $940 billion from Social Security. Earlier this week, he said America is less safe from terrorism after having launched the war in Iraq.
“Under the Bush scheme, the people who manage private Social Security accounts stand to get $940 billion,” said Mr. Kerry, who suffered from a cold that left him froggy and nearly inaudible at times. “That’s $940 billion that we should be using to protect benefits for our seniors, $940 billion that we should be using to save Social Security.”
Under the Bush plan that Mr. Kerry was talking about, young workers voluntarily could divert some of their Social Security payments into private investment accounts under the theory that they will make better investments than the government.
To support his statement, Mr. Kerry cited a study conducted by a professor in Chicago who supports his candidacy.
“The 45 million Americans who count on Social Security will see up to a 45 percent cut in their benefits, while Bush’s backers — the financial-services industry — will reap billions as part of the largest windfall in Social Security history,” according to the study by Austan Goolsbee at Chicago Business School.View Entire Story
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