President Bush defended the decision to issue terrorism warnings and tighten security in New York and Washington while Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry pitched his $20 billion alternative energy plan Friday.
Bush was in Washington, addressing the Unity convention of minority journalists, where he was received politely, but not nearly as warmly as Kerry had been the previous day.
“The atmosphere was totally different than Kerry yesterday,” reported MSNBC.com’s Darrell Bowling. “There were protesters outside … they were handing out leaflets. … When Bush came in, people stood up, but it was just polite applause. It was not the reception Kerry received." Bowling said at least one protester in the audience who confronted Bush was shouted down by journalists and then whisked away by security agents.
In defending the increased terrorism alerts, Bush told the journalists “the threats we’re dealing with are real” even though some of the intelligence on which the government acted was as much as four years old.
Bush said the government had an obligation to tell Americans about the threats, even though some have questioned whether the warnings were politically motivated to strengthen the president’s image as commander in chief in an election year.
“When we find out intelligence that is real, that threatens people, I believe we have an obligation as government to share that with people,” Bush told the journalists. “What if we didn’t share that with people and something was to happen? What would you write? What would you say?”
On Sunday, authorities elevated alert levels in New York, Washington and Newark, N.J., on the belief that terrorists might be plotting attacks on specific financial institutions. The intelligence behind the warnings — including hundreds of detailed surveillance photos, sketches and written documents — came from sources including a seized laptop and computer discs and from interviews after the mid-July arrest of a young Pakistani computer engineer, Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan.
Kerry, campaigning in Missouri, was to talk about his proposals to increase American energy production and reduce American reliance on foreign oil with a $20 billion fund to finance research and development of alternative and renewable fuels.
“That’s what I want to talk about today — how to make our country stronger and safer by working together to build an energy-independent America,” Kerry said in remarks prepared for delivery Friday.
The fund would promote energy sources like natural gas, coal, nuclear and renewable energy generated from corn, soybeans and other crops, the campaign said.
“America will be safer and freer when the resources that fuel our economy are in our hands and when we develop new energy sources in our country,” he said.
Kerry says one-fifth of the fuels powering U.S. cars and trucks should come from energy sources such as corn and soybeans by 2020.
Kerry was discussing his plan during a visit to a Missouri family farm near a new Ford Motor Co. plant that will make the first hybrid sport utility vehicle, which runs on a combination of gasoline and electricity.
On Thursday, stocks tumbled after a surge in oil prices rattled Wall Street. Light crude closed at a record $44.41 a barrel, up $1.58.
For consumers, Kerry’s plan to spend $20 billion over a decade to develop more clean-burning fuels and environmental technology would mean incentives, like tax breaks, worth up to $5,000 for the purchase of clean and efficient vehicles. Kerry wants those vehicles to be made in the United States, and he would put half of the $20 billion toward helping American manufacturers rebuild their plants to make more efficient vehicles.
Kerry’s rolling campaign charged through the bellwether state, which has voted for the eventual winner in every presidential race but one during the last 100 years, on the first day of its journey by train.