msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/17/2004 5:00:05 PM ET 2004-08-17T21:00:05

While a vacationing Sen. John Kerry added some of the Democratic Party’s most experienced strategists to his team, President Bush promoted his administration’s plans to build an anti-missile system Tuesday, suggesting that the program’s opponents are jeopardizing the country’s safety.

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Bush did not refer to Kerry, who would rein in spending on the project.

“I think those who oppose this ballistic missile system don’t understand the threats of the 21st century,” the president told applauding workers at defense contractor Boeing in Pennsylvania, a crucial state in Bush’s bid for re-election.

“We say to those tyrants who believe they can blackmail America and the free world: ‘You fire, we’re going to shoot it down,”’ Bush said.

The president said that Boeing engineers have loaded the first ballistic missile interceptor into a silo in Alaska, characterizing it as “the beginning of a missile defense system that was envisioned by Ronald Reagan.”

Bush said opponents of the system are “living in the past. We’re living in the future. We’re going to do what’s necessary to protect this country.

It was the 32nd trip of Bush’s presidency to Pennsylvania, a state that Vice President Al Gore won 51 percent to 46 percent in 2000. Gore won critically important Delaware County, where Ridley Park is located, 55 percent to 43 percent.

The Boeing plant where Bush spoke manufactures the CH-47 Chinook helicopter and the V-22 Osprey. The $40 billion Osprey program has been plagued by design flaws and other problems that led to crashes killing 23 troops in 2000. A redesign of the aircraft has solved or eased those problems, the Pentagon says.

Helicopter building tour
Bush took a tour in a helicopter assembly building. He climbed inside a Chinook 47 helicopter that was being refitted and, at one point, used a wrench to tighten or loosen a screw.

The Pennsylvania trip is Bush’s second appearance at a Boeing factory in five days.

Last Friday, the president said at a Boeing plant in Seattle that the United States would go to the World Trade Organization if necessary to stop European subsidies to Boeing competitor Airbus. Kerry said more than a year ago that the United States should subsidize Boeing just as European nations subsidize Airbus.

Responding to Bush’s comments, the European Union said that it was willing to consider “disciplining” government support to European aircraft maker Airbus — but only if the United States does the same for Boeing.

Meanwhile, Kerry was announcing some additions to his campaign team that included hometown allies from Boston and top advisers of former President Clinton.

“Everybody wants to help us win,” said campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill.

Michael Whouley, the Boston operative who helped salvage Kerry’s candidacy in Iowa, is returning to the Democratic presidential campaign to help strengthen Kerry’s state-by-state political organizations and to provide general strategic advice. Cahill said he had held similar jobs in the past three Democratic presidential campaigns.

Doug Sosnik, a political adviser in the Clinton White House, has joined the Democratic National Committee as a general strategist. As titular head of the party, Kerry has placed aides in key positions at the DNC.

The personnel announcements from the Kerry camp came as he prepared to end a vacation in Idaho and return to the campaign trail Tuesday night in Ohio. Other shifts on the staff:

  • Regena Thomas, secretary of state in New Jersey, will help the DNC’s voter turnout operation.
  • Jack Corrigan, who looked out for Kerry’s interests at the Democratic Convention in Boston, will join the DNC’s legal team.
  • Marcia Hale, director of intergovernmental affairs in the Clinton White House, will help the DNC coordinate the activities of senior Democrats campaigning on Kerry’s behalf.
  • Gerry Salemme, former chief of staff to Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., has joined the campaign as Cahill’s deputy to help with day-to-day operations.
  • Bill Lynch, former deputy mayor of New York, is a deputy campaign manager helping Kerry reach out to black voters.

On Election Night in 2000, Whouley was among the first strategists to recognize that then-Vice President Al Gore was closing the gap on Bush in Florida, and sent word that the candidate should not concede. Bush won the presidency more than a month later, when the Supreme Court stopped a recount in Florida.

In 2003, when Kerry decided to focus his ailing campaign in Iowa, he asked Whouley to travel the state and help John Norris finish putting a precinct-by-precinct organization together. Kerry won Iowa’s caucuses, and Norris now heads the campaign’s national “field” operations — its state-by-state organizing effort.

Kerry's running mate, Sen. John Edwards, made his second Arkansas visit in less than two weeks, lamenting lost jobs and ineffective tax cuts that he laid at the door of the Bush administration.

The North Carolina senator promised that he and Kerry would create new jobs.

“And we will have a trade policy that works for American workers because American workers can compete with anyone, anywhere, given the chance,” Edwards told about 175 people at a town hall-style meeting at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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