- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2004

COLUMBIA, Mo. — President Bush yesterday attempted to paint John Kerry as a far-left Democrat, comparing the challenger’s views on the Iraq war to those of Howard Dean, who was rejected by his own party as being too liberal to be elected president.

Vice President Dick Cheney also questioned the Democratic ticket’s fitness to fight the war on terror at a campaign stop in Iowa, saying that if Mr. Kerry is elected “the danger is that we’ll get hit again” by a catastrophic terrorist attack.

The double-barreled hit enraged the Kerry campaign, which has accused the Bush-Cheney team as one that will “do anything and say anything to save their jobs.”

Mr. Bush rolled through central Missouri on his campaign bus, stopping in counties that voted for him in 2000, but places that he had yet to visit in this year’s struggle for the key battleground state.

At an event in suburban Kansas City, Mo., Mr. Bush attacked the Massachusetts senator by accusing him of “flip-flops” on the war in Iraq — the first time those words have been used by Mr. Bush, who until now has preferred to let surrogates pin that label on his opponent.

He also evoked the specter of Mr. Dean, the former Vermont governor whose aggressively liberal primary campaign excited the left wing of his party, but ultimately failed to garner the nomination.

Mr. Dean’s staunch opposition to the war earned him momentum in the early primary season, and even some Democratic strategists concede that Mr. Kerry made a political decision to vote against funding the war in Iraq to protect his left flank.

It’s an opening the Bush campaign is not letting pass.

“When he got on in the Democratic primary, he declared himself the anti-war candidate. More recently, he switched again, saying he would have voted for the war even knowing everything we know today,” Mr. Bush said to a crowd of 14,000 at a high school stadium in suburban Kansas City. “And he woke up yesterday morning with yet another new position. And this one is not even his own. It is that of his one-time rival, Howard Dean.”

Mr. Dean, when he was leading pre-election polls in the Iowa caucuses in February 2003, said in a speech at Drake University that Mr. Bush’s focus on invading Iraq was “the wrong war at the wrong time.” Mr. Kerry told supporters in Pennsylvania Monday that Iraq was “the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“[Mr. Kerry] even used the same words Howard Dean did, back when he supposedly disagreed with him,” Mr. Bush said, eliciting laughter from the audience of supporters. “No matter how many times Senator Kerry flip-flops, we were right to make America safer by removing [Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein from power.”

The Bush campaign yesterday released a transcript of a Democratic primary debate in South Carolina from March 3, 2003, in which Mr. Dean used the “wrong war” rhetoric again. In that debate, Mr. Kerry defended his vote for the war, saying “it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein, and when the president made the decision, I supported him.”

Mr. Kerry and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, voted against a bill allocating $87 billion to pay for military operations in Iraq six months later.

Kerry campaign spokesman David Wade said Mr. Bush is bringing up Mr. Dean to distract from the slew of “wrong decisions” that have marked his presidency.

“George Bush should be worrying more about the mess he’s created in Iraq,” Mr. Wade said.

Mr. Cheney yesterday told supporters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that the Nov. 2 election will set the country’s anti-terror policy for the next “30 to 40 years” so “it’s absolutely essential that we make the right choice.”

“If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again,” Mr. Cheney said.

Mr. Edwards said Mr. Cheney’s “scare tactics crossed the line” and showed “once again that he and George Bush will do anything and say anything to save their jobs.”

“Protecting America from vicious terrorists is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it’s an American issue, and Dick Cheney and George Bush should know that,” Mr. Edwards said.

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