Sunday, April 18, 2004

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry said yesterday that he will treat the war on terror “primarily” as law-enforcement action even as he pledged to remain committed to Iraq and to personally plead for international help in policing and rebuilding that nation.

“In order to know who they are, where they are, what they’re planning and be able to go get them before they get us, you need the best intelligence, best law-enforcement cooperation in the world,” the Massachusetts senator said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I will use our military when necessary, but it is not primarily a military operation. It’s an intelligence-gathering, law-enforcement, public-diplomacy effort,” he said. “And we’re putting far more money into the war on the battlefield than we are into the war of ideas. We need to get it straight.”

Marc Racicot, chairman of President Bush’s re-election campaign, said Mr. Kerry’s formula won’t work.

“Serving terrorists with legal papers will not win this war. This is a pre-9/11 attitude that turns a blind eye to the threats that face our country,” he said.

In other comments on the show yesterday, Mr. Kerry stood by his statements that he received endorsements from numerous foreign leaders and made light of his 1971 assertion of having committed “atrocities” while serving in Vietnam.

Mr. Racicot also criticized Mr. Kerry for saying he would consider voting against funding for the war effort in the future, as he did last year, depending on the circumstances.

“This conditional support for the troops John Kerry voted to send to Iraq in the first place demonstrates a disturbing lack of judgment,” Mr. Racicot said.

Mr. Kerry said a change of president also would help attract international efforts in stabilizing the situation in Iraq.

“It may well be that we need a new president, a breath of fresh air, to re-establish credibility with the rest of the world, so that we can have a believable administration as to how we proceed,” he said.

In his appearance yesterday, Mr. Kerry also said he would uphold the trade embargo on Cuba, at least “for the moment,” though he also suggested that he would lift U.S. limits on travel to the communist nation.

Four years ago, Mr. Kerry called for a re-evaluation of U.S. trade policy toward Cuba, but yesterday he said he since has become more attuned to what the Cuban-American community thinks about the issue.

“What I have done is sat down with members of the community and listened. And I find that there is a willingness within the community to begin to think about other alternatives and options,” he said.

Under questioning from Tim Russert, Mr. Kerry defended his statement earlier this year that he has met foreign leaders who have told him that they want him to win this election.

An investigation by The Washington Times found no opportunities for Mr. Kerry to have had a face-to-face meeting with any foreign leader. Yesterday, Mr. Kerry did point to potential opportunities, but continued his campaign’s refusal to identify names or specific opportunities.

“You can go to New York City and you can be in a restaurant and you can meet a foreign leader. There are plenty of places to meet people without traveling abroad,” he said, adding that he “would be stupid” to name the leaders, because they still must deal with Mr. Bush.

Mr. Kerry said he still stands by his statement and challenged news organizations to investigate whether his point was correct.

“I invite you, I invite The Washington Times editorial, go to European, go to foreign capitals, travel in the world. Talk to any American businessman who has been abroad,” he said. “Never has the United States of America been held in as low a regard internationally — and polls have shown this — as we are today. We’re not trusted, and this administration is not liked.”

Mr. Russert showed a clip of Mr. Kerry on “Meet the Press” in 1971, saying that in Vietnam: “I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed.”

“You committed atrocities,” Mr. Russert said yesterday.

Mr. Kerry tried to interject some humor.

“Where did all that dark hair go, Tim? That’s a big question for me,” he said.

Mr. Kerry then said using the word “atrocities” and calling U.S. leaders “war criminals” were not the best choice of words.

“The words were honest, but, on the other hand, they were a little bit over the top,” he said.

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