- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 29, 2004

WHEELING, W.Va. — President Bush yesterday accused Sen. John Kerry of “shifting” his position on coal mining in this swing state, where the president also courted steelworkers whose union has endorsed Mr. Kerry.

“I’m running against a fellow who is kind of shifting,” Mr. Bush told 7,500 cheering supporters at a rally. “A while ago, he said coal is a dirty source of energy. Then he decided he wanted to come to your state and knock on your door.

“And then he said, ‘Now, well, I am for legislation that is supporting clean-coal technology.’ In other words, he shifted.

“He’s out there mining for votes,” he added, drawing laughs from his audience. “Tell your friends and neighbors: Be careful of somebody whose position shifts in the wind.”

The president also bragged that the annual budget for clean-coal technology has grown 160 percent to $447 million under his administration.

But the Kerry campaign countered that the president’s funding of clean-coal technology has not kept pace with his 2000 campaign promise to spend $2 billion over a 10-year-period. The Kerry campaign also accused Mr. Bush of cutting funds for miner safety.

“George Bush broke his promise to invest in coal’s future and failed to protect coal miners,” said Kerry spokesman Phil Singer. “No wonder he’s lashing out on the campaign trail, misleading the public about his record.

“John Kerry knows that coal mining creates jobs and believes that, with the right investment and commitment, coal will be an even cleaner part of America’s energy future,” he added.

Before addressing the rally, Mr. Bush met privately with six steelworkers who support his candidacy, despite the fact that at least half of them are Democrats. All are members of the Independent Steelworkers Union, which has endorsed Mr. Kerry.

The workers thanked Mr. Bush for imposing temporary tariffs on imported steel in order to give the U.S. industry time to restructure. The president imposed the tariffs in March 2002 and rescinded them in December 2003.

Although critics say the tariffs should have been left in place longer, Mr. Bush defended his actions and said they were responsible for the steel industry’s current boom.

“I did what I thought was right,” he told the workers, who were wearing T-shirts that said “Steel Workers for Bush.”

Later, he told the rally that he imposed the tariffs because he thought the industry was “being treated unfairly.”

“I thought I needed to stand up for steel, and I did stand up for steel,” he said. “I put in place safeguards to restore fairness to the market, to help our steel folks adjust.

“The plan worked. These folks back here are working in good jobs, good high-paying jobs,” he added.

The Kerry campaign was not impressed.

“Bush has played politics with the steel industry from day one, and his miscalculations have hurt steelworkers,” Mr. Singer said.

“First, he said free trade should govern, then he imposed tariffs, but then he pulled the tariffs before the steel industry could recover. We need steady leadership when it comes to helping steelworkers, not political posturing.”

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