- The Washington Times - Monday, August 9, 2004

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said over the weekend he won’t get involved in the fight on the Protect Arizona Now initiative to deny illegal aliens some social services in this state, although last year he called it “both heartless and divisive.”

Speaking to reporters from Arizona newspapers on his campaign train Sunday night, Mr. Kerry said states should be allowed to make such decisions.

“It’s up to states to decide what the states want to do with respect to their own expenditures,” Mr. Kerry said, according to the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff.

Polls show the initiative, which would deny state and local social services to illegal immigrants and require proof of U.S. citizenship before voting, has the support of nearly three-fourths of Arizona voters.

But Mr. Kerry has argued against the initiative.

Last August, he wrote a letter to the Tucson Citizen, signed as a U.S. senator and candidate for president, blasting the initiative. He said it resembled California’s Proposition 187, which also sought to deny benefits to illegal immigrants, and which Mr. Kerry said was pushed by “forces of hate and discrimination.”

Kerry campaign spokesman David Wade denied the two positions are inconsistent. He said Mr. Kerry opposes the initiative, but doesn’t think the president should interfere with states’ rights on the matter.

Mr. Kerry is on the 11th day of his post-convention cross-country journey, and yesterday he took a helicopter tour near the Grand Canyon, where he pledged to spend $600 million to reverse Bush administration cuts to national parks’ budgets.

He also defended his decision to vote for the president to use force in Iraq even knowing what he knows now.

“I would have voted for the authority, I believe it’s the right authority for a president to have, but I would have used that authority, as I have said throughout this campaign, effectively,” Mr. Kerry told reporters traveling with him.

Mr. Kerry was responding to President Bush’s challenge last week to state whether he still supports his vote in 2002 to authorize the use of force.

“I have given my answer,” Mr. Bush said. “We did the right thing and the world is better off for it.”

Mr. Kerry also reiterated his goal to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq within a year.

“I believe if you do the statesmanship properly, I believe if you do the kind of alliance building that is available to us, that it is appropriate to have a goal of reducing our troops over that period of time.”

Mr. Kerry responded with four questions of his own, which he said were “not hypothetical” and to which “the American people deserve” answers.

“My question to President Bush is: Why did he rush to war without a plan to win the peace? Why did he rush to war on faulty intelligence and not do the hard work necessary to give America the truth? Why did he mislead America about how he would go to war? Why has he not brought other countries to the table in order to support American troops in the way that we deserve it?”

Standing at the Grand Canyon with a pool of reporters, Mr. Kerry said the national park system “is under stress, and part of the reason it’s under stress is it’s underfunded by some $600 million.”

“Some facilities have been forced to even curtail their availability to the public,” he said.

He said the $600 million would come out of a $20 billion conservation and energy trust fund he has proposed, though he said he would consider also raising park fees.

Mr. Kerry has spent the past few days working to earn votes in northern New Mexico and Arizona, particularly among Hispanics and American Indians, who lean overwhelmingly Democratic.

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