- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 4, 2004

NEWARK, Ohio — A new poll shows President Bush taking a double-digit lead over Sen. John Kerry, who spent yesterday aggressively attacking Mr. Bush here with the hope of regaining a foothold in the election and beating back concerns within his own party that he’s not working hard enough to win.

Time magazine released a new poll showing Mr. Bush has opened up an 11 percent lead over Mr. Kerry. The president was ahead 52 percent to 41 percent in the survey, which was conducted before his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in New York.

In campaign stops from late Thursday night to yesterday afternoon, the Massachusetts senator criticized Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for not fighting in Vietnam; he compared the current economy to the Great Depression and said that whenever Republicans “open their mouths, they can’t tell the truth.”

At a midnight rally minutes after the president concluded his acceptance speech in New York, Mr. Kerry stood before a jubilant crowd in Springfield, Ohio and said Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney “refused to serve when they could have,” a reference to the Vietnam War in which he fought and they didn’t.

Yesterday, he reiterated the charges and launched a frontal assault on Mr. Cheney, whose convention speech praised the senator for his service in Vietnam but said Mr. Kerry was not capable of leading the country.

“Vice President Cheney suggested that I was unfit for office,” Mr. Kerry said. “I’ll let you and the American people decide whether five deferments makes you more unfit than two tours of duty.”

It was a not-so-subtle reference to Mr. Cheney’s avoidance of the Vietnam War and his own service there. In the Navy, Mr. Kerry saw 41/2 months of combat in Vietnam, during which time he was awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts.

Calling out Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney for not serving is a stark departure from earlier positions Mr. Kerry has taken on the issue of politicians using their military resumes for political gains.

“I’m here personally to express my anger as a veteran that a president who would stand before this nation in his inaugural address and promise to put Vietnam behind us is now breaking yet another promise and trying to use Vietnam and service in order to get himself re-elected,” he said during the 1992 campaign in defense of former President Clinton, who also avoided the draft and Vietnam. “That is not an act of leadership. That is an act of shame and cowardice.”

The new strategy signals the hardships faced by the campaign since anti-Kerry veterans — many of whom served around Mr. Kerry in Vietnam — have produced television ads criticizing the candidate for his conduct during Vietnam, most notably his protests of the war after he returned from combat.

Mr. Kerry also sought to shift the focus of the campaign from the war on terror — an area in which Mr. Bush dominates — to domestic issues such as the economy.

He compared the economy under Mr. Bush to the Great Depression after government statistics were released showing that 144,000 jobs were created last month, lowering the unemployment rate to 5.4 percent.

“This number should not come as any surprise given that this is an administration that says outsourcing is a good thing,” Mr. Kerry said after the job numbers were released. “If you believe lost jobs mean that America is heading in the right direction, you should support George Bush and his policies of failure. But if you believe America needs to move in a new direction, join with us.”

In this state that many consider the key to winning November’s election, Mr. Kerry bluntly dismissed the vision Mr. Bush laid out in his convention speech. He told crowds that Mr. Bush was “all hat and no cattle” and suggested the recently concluded Republican convention was full of lies.

In speeches, the one point of agreement Mr. Kerry shares with Mr. Bush is the importance of Iraq.

“Finally, there’s this issue of Iraq,” he said. This is the most serious issue we face right now. And this is not an issue that ought to be the subject of Democrat, Republican — that’s not where it comes from. This comes from the heart, the gut, from the hip, the common sense of Americans. This president misled America into this war.”

Rowan Scarborough contributed to this report.

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