WACO, Texas — President Bush, preparing for a debate on foreign policy with his Democratic rival, accuses “John Kerry and Congressional liberals” of “putting our protection at risk” in a campaign ad released Tuesday, his second commercial on the issue in two days.
“Strength builds peace. Weakness invites those who do us harm,” the ad says, a suggestion that Kerry would be a weak leader in wartime and a country headed by him would be vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
The ad accuses Kerry of “refusing to support our troops in combat” and trying to severely slash intelligence budgets and eliminate military weapons after the first attack on the World Trade Center.
Bush and Kerry debate foreign policy at the University of Miami on Thursday night, the first of three scheduled debates. Both candidates were spending Tuesday preparing for the meeting.
Responding to the new ad, Kerry’s campaign accused the Bush campaign of “using the politics of fear” to mask the president’s “mistakes in Iraq.”
“They don’t want people to know that President Bush has no plan for Iraq, or that his failures there have made it harder to fight the war on terror,” said Chad Clanton, a Kerry campaign spokesman.
A day earlier, Bush’s campaign started running an ad portraying Kerry as indecisive on the Iraq war. The president also insisted in a TV interview that Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon on his watch.
“My hope is that we can solve this diplomatically,” Bush said. “We are working our hearts out so that they don’t develop a nuclear weapon, and the best way to do so is to continue to keep international pressure on them.”
Pressed on whether he would allow Iran to build a bomb, Bush said: “No, we’ve made it clear, our position is that they won’t have a nuclear weapon.”
Bush’s comments on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” did not mark new policy. In June 2003, Bush said that “the international community must come together to make it very clear to Iran that we will not tolerate the construction of a nuclear weapon.”
But Bush has not spoken out so forcefully on the matter since signs emerged recently that Iran could be on the path toward developing a bomb.
Iran defied rules set by 35 nations and announced it had started converting raw uranium into the gas needed for enrichment, a process that can be used to make nuclear weapons. While insisting its intentions are peaceful, Iran pledged to continue even if it means a rupture with U.N. monitors and an end to inspections of its nuclear facilities.
Kerry charges that Bush’s Iraq policies “took our attention and our resources away” from dealing with Iran and holds out hope that a negotiated solution with Iran is possible. He said the United States and other nations should “call their bluff” by offering nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes, then taking back the spent fuel so it can’t be used for weapons.
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