- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Bush-Cheney campaign yesterday accused Sen. John Kerry of “raw political opportunism” and using the recent troubles in Iraq for his political gain, as the Democratic presidential candidate continued calling for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld from the campaign trail.

“It’s striking to see the ease with which John Kerry thrusts an important moment for our country into the campaign’s daily spin cycle,” said Bush-Cheney campaign chairman Marc Racicot, referring to, among other events, Mr. Kerry’s sending out an e-mail that both demanded Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation and solicited campaign cash.

“At a moment when America and Americans stand strong behind our troops on the battlefield, John Kerry is attacking President Bush and the military and seeking to divide along party lines,” he said.

“If there was ever a time to refrain from partisan politics, this is it,” Mr. Racicot said. “But all we see from the Kerry campaign and from John Kerry is political exploitation for political gain.”

Mr. Kerry, campaigning in Florida yesterday, continued his demand that Mr. Rumsfeld resign in the wake of the Iraqi prisoner abuse photos and denied that he was politicizing the war for political gain.

“If America has reached a point where only one person has the ability in our great democracy to manage the Pentagon and to continue or to put in place a better policy even, we’re in deeper trouble than you think,” Mr. Kerry said of the president’s refusal to fire Mr. Rumsfeld.

“I don’t accept that. I just don’t accept that. I think that’s an excuse. The fact is that we need a change in policy,” the Massachusetts senator said.

As for politicizing the war in Iraq, Mr. Kerry said, “They had no plan for winning the peace and now Americans are paying the price. A couple of hundred billion dollars a year, and that is disgraceful.”

During a telephone press conference yesterday, Mr. Racicot said he was particularly struck by two mass e-mails sent by the Kerry campaign to supporters — one last week and one this week — demanding that Mr. Rumsfeld resign and soliciting campaign contributions.

Mr. Racicot called the e-mails “political exploitation” and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, called it a “creepy fund-raising gimmick.”

Mr. Racicot also criticized Mr. Kerry for comments he made earlier this week at a fund-raising dinner in Louisville, Ky., in which he said the prisoner-abuse scandal isn’t the fault of “just a few privates and corporals, sergeants.”

“This is something that comes out of an attitude about the rights of prisoners of war,” Mr. Kerry said, according to an account of the fund-raiser from Bloomberg News. “It is an attitude that comes out of how we view the prisoners. It is an attitude that comes out of an overall arrogance and policy.”

It was an attempt, Mr. Racicot said, to “incite and take advantage of a very, very difficult moment.”

Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton said that the charges “aren’t helpful” and that “John Kerry has gone out of his way not to politicize this because he understands the seriousness of the situation.”

“This is a serious situation that calls for a serious investigation,” Mr. Clanton said. “We need to get to the bottom of what happened, so we can prevent it from happening again.”

Mr. Racicot said Mr. Bush provides “steady leadership” while Mr. Kerry’s denials that he’s politicizing events in Iraq for partisan gain are part of a “larger pattern” of switching positions from one day to the next.

“You know, he’s a mystery to me,” Mr. Racicot said. “The only thing that seems consistent about him is his inconsistency.”

Bush campaign officials also criticized Mr. Kerry’s fellow Democratic senator from Massachusetts, Edward M. Kennedy, for comparing the recent abuse at Abu Ghraib to the decades of extreme torture and routine slaughter of Iraqis by the thousands under Saddam Hussein.

“Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam’s torture chambers reopened under new management — U.S. management,” Mr. Kennedy said Tuesday.

“John Kerry and Ted Kennedy stooped to a new low yesterday in their dual attacks on President Bush and America’s military,” Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said. “John Kerry never misses an opportunity to play politics with the war on terror and his appalling comments call into question his ability to lead America during these challenging times.”

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