msnbc.com news services
updated 7/13/2004 8:35:23 PM ET 2004-07-14T00:35:23

President Bush attacked his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, on Tuesday for expressing pride in voting against an $87 billion funding bill for Iraq and over a fund-raising event in New York where celebrities bashed Bush.

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Bush opened a wide-ranging critique of Kerry during campaign rallies on the first day of a two-day swing through three Midwestern states he lost in 2000 but would like to pick
off this year — Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. One of his 22-year-old twin daughters, Barbara, accompanied him.

Dueling demands
Republicans have been expressing outrage at a fund-raising event for Kerry and his vice presidential running mate, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, last week in which entertainers lined up to skewer the president.

During the event, comedian Whoopi Goldberg did a lewd riff on Bush’s name, rocker John Mellencamp called Bush a “cheap thug” and actor Chevy Chase called him “a liar.”

“The other day, my opponent said that a bunch of entertainers from Hollywood conveyed the heart and soul of America. I believe the heart and soul of America is found in places like Duluth, Minnesota,” Bush told several thousand supporters in this city on the shores of Lake Superior.

Phil Singer, a spokesman for Kerry, derided the attack as the work of “a desperate, partisan White House.”

Bush’s campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, released a letter Tuesday that he wrote to Kerry’s campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, asking “your campaign to release the performance ... so that all Americans could see for themselves what John Kerry thinks represents the ‘heart and soul’ of our country.”

Mehlman promised that the Bush campaign would not use audio, video or transcripts of the event for any television, cable, satellite or radio advertising. “We look forward to seeing this spirited display,” he wrote.

Cahill responded with her own letter, saying the Bush campaign’s “paparazzi-like obsession” with the fund-raiser was misplaced when the public was more interested in seeing documents relating to the president’s service in the military and the White House.

Cahill said the Kerry campaign would not consider releasing the fund-raiser until Bush released proof that he fulfilled his National Guard duty and government documents relating to the no-bid contracts awarded to Halliburton Co., the drafting of the energy and Medicare bills, and the prison abuse scandal in Iraq.

Facing ‘tough campaign’
Bush, on the defensive over intelligence failures in Iraq, said Kerry was a flip-flopper for voting against the Iraq funding bill approved by Congress last year after having voted in favor of a congressional resolution in late 2002 that authorized the use of force against Iraq.

In Boston, Kerry said Monday that he was “proud to say” he and Edwards voted against the funding bill because “we knew the policy had to be changed” and “we needed other countries involved.”

“Now listen he's entitled to his view,” Bush said. “But members of Congress should not vote to send troops into battle and then vote against funding them.”

At an earlier event in Marquette, Mich., Bush attacked Kerry for his recent statement that he stood for conservative values. Both parties are seeking the upper hand as the defenders of traditional American values.

But Bush also seemed to acknowledge his position as down in the polls, saying he was facing a “tough campaign” for re-election on Nov. 2. A USA Today poll said Kerry led Bush by 50 percent to 45 percent after picking Edwards as his running mate last week.

“I’m running against a strong candidate. He’s been in Washington a lot longer than I have. He’s been there long enough to take both sides of just about every issue,” he said.

Citing what he called Kerry’s shifting positions on the Iraq war, the No Child Left Behind Act for schools and the USA Patriot Act, Bush said of Kerry: “He kind of reminds me of the weather here — just wait a day, and it’s going to change.”

Singer replied, “Considering that the president actively avoided combat duty and has pursued policies that have made the nation less secure, he is on very shaky ground when it comes to questioning the commitment that Vietnam vet John Kerry has to our military.”

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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