DAVENPORT, Iowa — President Bush, touring yesterday with former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, said Sen. John Kerry advocates a “cut and run” strategy in Iraq and is “willing to wait until terrorists without conscience kill without limit” before defending the United States.
Mr. Bush emphasized his final-week theme before 5,000 supporters in Greeley, a farming community on the prairie of northeast Colorado, saying he is the only choice if Americans want to wage an aggressive war on terror.
“On Iraq, my opponent has a strategy of pessimism and retreat,” Mr. Bush said. “He has sent the signal that America’s overriding goal in Iraq would be to leave, even if the job is not done. That sends the wrong message.
“On this vital front of the war on terror, protest is not a policy, retreat is not a strategy, and failure is not an option,” he said to raucous cheers. “As long as I’m the commander in chief, America will never retreat in the face of the terrorists.”
Mr. Giuliani, who became a national hero for his handling of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, stumped with Mr. Bush yesterday in Colorado and Iowa, two states essential to a Bush-Cheney victory.
Mr. Giuliani said leadership was essential for the presidency and that the Massachusetts Democrat does not measure up.
“We don’t want to go back to the days when Senator Kerry described terrorism as only a nuisance. When they attacked my city for the first time, it was not only a nuisance,” Mr. Giuliani said, referring to the 1993 truck-bomb attack on the World Trade Center.
The former mayor will visit Nevada, California and Missouri in the coming days, then is expected to meet up with Mr. Bush and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for a Sunday rally in Columbus, Ohio, campaign sources said.
Mr. Bush yesterday let loose with his most pointed criticism of the Democratic presidential nominee’s various positions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr. Bush said his strategy to encourage the spread of democracy in the Arab world — a region that has never experienced it — is the only way to ensure that future generations live without the continual threat of catastrophic terrorist attacks by Islamists.
The war in Iraq is a keystone to that strategy, and the president turned one of Mr. Kerry’s most famous campaign-trail cracks about the Iraq war on its head and forged it into his own attack.
“My opponent has the wrong strategy for the wrong country at the wrong time,” Mr. Bush said to the delight of the crowd.
Mr. Kerry has suggested that trying to “impose democracy on the people of the broader Middle East” is too ambitious and not the job of the United States.
“What is his strategy?” Mr. Bush asked. “Is he prepared to watch and wait as resentment and anger grow for more decades? Is he content to wait as more and more people are angry and hostile and turn to terrorism? Is he willing to wait until terrorists without conscience kill without limit?
“Turning a blind eye is easier in the short term,” he continued. “But we learned on September 11 that if terrorism isn’t opposed at the source, they will find us where we live.”
Mr. Bush said Mr. Kerry “has chosen a position of weakness and inaction” in the war on terror and that his positions on the Cold War, the first Persian Gulf war and his vote to cut the intelligence budget after the first World Trade Center attack have been proved wrong by history.
The president also reached out to Democratic voters who consider national security and the war their top concerns, a strategy that Bush campaign senior strategist Karl Rove said yesterday is a key to victory.
Mr. Bush said Mr. Kerry’s lack of conviction in the war on terror measures up poorly against his party’s wartime presidents of generations past.
“With that record, he stands in opposition not just to me, but to the great tradition of the Democratic Party,” Mr. Bush said.
“The party of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and John Kennedy is rightly remembered for confidence and resolve in times of war and in hours of crisis,” Mr. Bush said. “Senator Kerry has turned his back on ‘pay any price’ and ‘bear any burden,’ and he has replaced those commitments with ‘wait and see’ and ‘cut and run.’
“Many Democrats in this country do not recognize their party anymore. Today, I want to speak to every one of them: If you believe that America should lead with strength and purpose and confidence in our ideals, I would be honored to have your support, and I ask for your vote,” he said.
Mr. Kerry has been saying for weeks that Mr. Bush bungled the post-September 11 Afghanistan operation because he had Osama bin Laden “cornered” in the mountains of Tora Bora and let him get away. That version of events has been countered by retired Gen. Tommy Franks, who was the commander of forces in the Middle East at the time.
Yesterday, however, Mr. Bush stepped into the fray for the first time.
“Now my opponent is throwing out the wild claim that he knows where bin Laden was in the fall of 2001 and that our military had a chance to get him in Tora Bora,” Mr. Bush said. “This is an unjustified and harsh criticism of our military commanders in the field. This is the worst kind of Monday-morning quarterbacking, and it is what we have come to expect from Senator Kerry.”
Mr. Rove said he thinks Mr. Kerry’s near-daily criticisms of Mr. Bush, often ripped from the day’s headlines, are hurting the Democrat among swing voters tired of the negativity.
And he saw Mr. Kerry’s appearance in Philadelphia with former President Bill Clinton yesterday as the act of a man who is having trouble with his core Democratic voters.
“It’s quite a sight to see Bill Clinton rolling out of a hospital bed to save this dying campaign,” Mr. Rove said.