- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, accused President Bush in a Florida speech yesterday of not doing enough to combat the threat of bioterrorism.

“Every report that has been completed since September 11 has said it is not a question of if an attack will occur, it is a question of when,” Mr. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, told a Tampa audience. “Why haven’t we done everything necessary to be able to be ready for that threat?”

He said Mr. Bush does not have a national strategy for fighting bioterrorism and specifically criticized the president for not naming a single person to oversee a bureau to monitor the threat of bioterrorism.

The campaign event with emergency medical technicians and other early responders is part of an 11-day effort by Mr. Kerry to beef up his national security credentials for combating terrorism, an area in which many polls show him trailing Mr. Bush by considerable margins.

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt dismissed Mr. Kerry’s charges as “baseless and misleading.”

He listed the $3.5 billion in Mr. Bush’s budget — $3.1 billion more than President Clinton allocated — earmarked to help states and localities combat terrorism. Mr. Bush’s budget also includes $1.7 billion for biodefense research, a considerable increase over the $53 million requested by Mr. Clinton.

“President Bush realizes that state and local governments are at the forefront of the war on terror and is doing everything possible to ensure their ability to meet the challenges they face,” Mr. Schmidt said.

Mr. Kerry also pointed to the anthrax-laced letters mailed to several senators and media outlets in October 2001, a case that remains unsolved.

“Nearly three years after the anthrax attacks, there are significant gaps in our efforts to prevent bioterrorism,” he said.

Yesterday marked Mr. Kerry’s 15th visit to Florida, a battleground state that decided the 2000 election.

• This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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