- The Washington Times - Friday, July 30, 2004

CLEVELAND — President Bush, who kept a low profile during the Democratic National Convention, bounded back to the campaign trail yesterday, slamming Sen. John Kerry for “few signature achievements” in a retooled stump speech.

Mr. Bush dismissed the Democratic gathering as a showcase for empty rhetoric as he barnstormed through three battleground states on the day after the convention ended.

“We heard a lot of clever speeches and some big promises,” he said at a raucous rally in Springfield, Mo.

“My opponent has good intentions, but intentions do not always translate to results,” he added. “After 19 years in the United States Senate, my opponent has had thousands of votes but very few signature achievements.”

By reminding voters again and again that “results matter,” Mr. Bush was road testing a new campaign theme that aides said he would emphasize for the next month. He described himself as a results-oriented leader who has made significant progress on everything from education to health care, from job creation to fighting the war against terrorism.

“We are turning the corner and we’re not turning back,” he said, repeating the tag line half a dozen times in a single speech.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the president did not watch Mr. Kerry accept the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday night because the speech began after Mr. Bush had gone to bed. But Mr. McClellan and White House political strategist Karl Rove saw the speech and were not impressed.

“While he was frank about his own complexities, he failed to provide any straight talk about his inconsistent and contradictory statements on Iraq,” Mr. McClellan told reporters on Air Force One.

“He is a walking contradiction,” he added. “He offered to elevate the debate, while at the same time launching negative attacks against the president.”

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt pointed out that Mr. Kerry devoted very little of his 55-minute speech to Senate accomplishments.

“Seventy-three of the 5,343 words were about his Senate record — a total of 26 seconds,” he said.

Mr. Bush devoted more words of his own speech to Mr. Kerry’s Senate record, portraying the Massachusetts Democrat as a politician who has done more harm than good.

“During eight years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, he voted to cut the intelligence budget and he had no record of reforming America’s intelligence gathering capability,” the president said. “He had no significant record for reforming education and health care.

“As a matter of fact, he and his running mate consistently opposed reforms that limit the power of Washington and leave more power in the hands of the people.

“He’s spent nearly 20 years in the federal government, and it appears he’s concluded that it’s just not big enough,” he added. “He’s proposed more than $2 trillion of additional federal spending.”

The president said Mr. Kerry would pay for such government expansions by raising taxes, a point he repeated during stops in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Cleveland. He dubbed the trip, which continues today in Ohio and Pennsylvania, the “heart and soul of America tour.”

Kerry spokesman Phil Singer ridiculed the president’s mantra that “results matter.”

“Results do matter, and the fact that George Bush’s policies have resulted in record deficits, skyrocketing health costs, lower quality jobs, a military stretched thin and an isolated nation stand in stark contrast to John Kerry’s plan to make America stronger at home and more respected in the world,” he said.

Although the president did not mention Mr. Kerry by name, he implicitly responded to a variety of Democratic attack lines that were used at this week’s convention in Boston.

In an apparent reference to criticism that he opposes destroying human embryos for stem-cell research, for example, Mr. Bush vowed to “expand research and development for new cures for terrible diseases.”

The president also fired back at Democrats who have accused him of wrecking the economic expansion of former President Bill Clinton. He approvingly told the Springfield audience of a local businessman who predicted “a boom bigger than the ‘90s.”

Finally, the president responded to Democratic criticism that wages are too low among the 1.5 million jobs created over the past year. He cited the success story of a Missouri woman he met yesterday.

“She used to be a bank teller,” Mr. Bush said. “With the tax relief she and her family had as a result of the tax cuts, she went back to school.

“She’s now a nurse,” he added. “She now makes three times the amount of money she made before because of education.”

At each stop on the campaign trail, Mr. Bush was greeted by enthusiastic crowds numbering in the thousands. The Missouri speech alone was interrupted 85 times for applause and received numerous standing ovations, with voters often chanting “four more years.”

The president made a point of mentioning hot-button issues that tend to rally his conservative base, such as abortion and the blocking of his judicial nominations by Democrats. But he elicited the most forceful responses when he alluded to the notion of homosexual “marriage,” which the president seeks to ban through a constitutional amendment.

“We stand for institutions like marriage and family, which are the foundations of society,” he said. “We stand for a culture of life in which every person matters and every person counts.

“We stand for judges who strictly and faithfully interpret the law instead of legislating from the bench,” he added.

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