Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Thursday that President Bush should appeal to other nations to share the decision-making and responsibility in Iraq as violence surges in the Middle Eastern country.
“I believe it is the role of the president of the United States to maximize the ability to be successful and to minimize the cost to the American people, both financially and in lives,” Kerry said.
“That’s common sense. And here today, once again, we are asking the question, why is the United States of America almost alone in carrying this burden and the risks which the world has a stake in? We ought to be engaged in a bold, clear, startlingly honest appeal to the world to see the interest,” he said.
As Kerry spoke, U.S. forces were battling Shiite Muslim militants and Sunni insurgents in Iraq. The violence has claimed nearly three dozen American lives since last weekend.
'Ask the right questions'
Kerry said he honors the U.S. troops fighting in Iraq, “but leadership also requires that we ask the right questions and that we put forward the right policies for our country.”
Kerry spoke on Iraq before touting his economic plan at a town meeting with Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle. The trip was his first visit to the battleground state since he won its presidential primary in February.
Portrayed by Republican critics as a tax-and-spend Massachusetts liberal, Kerry is promising to hold the line on federal spending if elected president.
In a speech Wednesday, Kerry said he would cut the deficit in half in four years and cap spending at the rate of inflation, except for homeland security, education and the Social Security and Medicare entitlement programs. He acknowledged that he will have to cut some of his campaign promises to meet the goal.
“I don’t like that. But those are the hard calls that a president has to make,” Kerry said at Georgetown University.
Kerry's own issues of doubletalk
Kerry’s pledge to abide by spending caps could open him to criticism that his campaign promises cannot be trusted.
He has promised to explain how he would pay for every new campaign proposal without raising taxes on the middle class or increasing the deficit, but he has yet to provide such detail. In the speech, he emphasized that his spending plan would cut taxes for 98 percent of Americans and for 99 percent of U.S. businesses.
Kerry said with the deficit growing, he’ll have to “slow down” some of his promises or phase them in over a longer period. He cited proposals for early childhood education and to provide tuition to students at state colleges in exchange for two years of national service. He didn’t say by how much they would be scaled back.
A cornerstone of Kerry’s plan is his proposed repeal of Bush’s tax cuts for people earning more than $200,000 a year. Policy director Sarah Bianchi said that alone would pay for his education and health care proposals, but that other spending programs will have to be financed by trimming existing initiatives.
$90 billion in cuts
Existing programs that Kerry described as nonessential and targets for trimming include the federal travel budget, oil royalty exemptions for drilling on federal lands, the number of federal contractors and the government’s electricity use. Those cuts alone would generate $90 billion over 10 years, his campaign said.
Bush’s re-election campaign said third-party calculations of 44 of the Massachusetts senator’s proposals show they would cost about $1 trillion over five years — an amount they contend he cannot pay without raising taxes.
Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Kerry’s emphasis on fiscal discipline contrasts with his Senate record and his spending promises on the campaign trail.
“His speech failed to address the mystery of his own budget gap — which taxes will he raise and which federal spending programs will he cut?” Schmidt asked.