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KWAME HOLMAN: Two days before their third and final debate in Tempe, Arizona both President Bush and John Kerry campaigned today in neighboring New Mexico. Polls show the two candidates about even in the state which Al Gore won in 2000 by just a few hundred votes. President Bush rallied supporters this morning in the town of Habs near the west Texas border.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: As you can tell I’m kind of working my way west for the final debate. Our debates have highlighted the clear differences between the senator and me on issues ranging from jobs to taxes to health care and to the war on terror. With a straight face he tried to tell Americans that when it comes to his health care plan– and I quote — the government has nothing to do with it. The facts are that eight out of ten people who get health care under Sen. Kerry’s plan would be placed on a government program. He can run but he cannot hide. (Cheers and applause) Then he was asked to look into the camera… (laughing)… and promise he would not raise taxes for anyone who earns less than $200,000 a year. The problem is to keep that promise, he’d have to break almost all his other promises.
His plan to raise taxes on the top two income brackets would raise about $600 billion according to our counters, about $800 billion according to his planners… counters. The problem is that his spending plans will cost almost four times as much, $2.2 trillion. You can’t have it both ways. To pay for all the big spending programs he’s outlined during his campaign, he’s going to have to raise your taxes. You see, he can run but he cannot hide. (Cheers and applause) Listen, to make sure this economy continues to grow, Congress needs to pass my energy plan. I put a plan up there that encourages conservation, that understands we can use renewables, like ethanol and biodiesel. It’s a plan that also recognizes that we can explore for natural gas in environmentally friendly ways. It’s a plan that recognizes we can use clean coal technology. At the heart of my plan is the understanding that in order to create jobs here, America must become less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Cheers and applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: Aside from the domestic issues which will be the focus of questioning during Wednesday night’s debate the president again spoke about the war on terror and this morning the president added to his arsenal comments made by John Kerry published this weekend in the New York Times Magazine. In the article, Sen. Kerry is quoted as saying, we have to get back to the place where we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance. Kerry drew these comparisons to the war on terror. “I know we’re never going to end prostitution. We’re never going to end illegal gambling, but we’re going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn’t on the rise. It isn’t threatening people’s lives every day, and fundamentally, it’s something that you continue to fight but it’s not threatening the fabric of your life.”
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: See, I couldn’t disagree more. Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance. Our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive, destroying terrorist networks and spreading freedom and liberty around the world.
KWAME HOLMAN: And the Bush campaign immediately produced a television ad in response to Sen. Kerry’s comments.
AD SPOKESMAN: Now Kerry says we have to get back to the place where terrorists are a nuisance, like gambling and prostitution; we’re never going to end them. Terrorism, a nuisance? How can Kerry protect us when he doesn’t understand the threat?
KWAME HOLMAN: The Kerry campaign responded with an ad of its own.
AD SPOKESPERSON: Bush gives Halliburton $7 billion in no-bid contracts, $200 billion for Iraq but to inspect containers, secure, bridges tunnels and chemical plants, Bush says we can’t afford it. On the war on terror I don’t think you can win it.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I don’t think you can win it.
KWAME HOLMAN: Kerry himself barely mentioned the war on terror in a speech in Santa Fe. The senator’s focus was on competing energy plans, how the president’s plan has failed and why his will succeed.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Right now oil prices, as the governor just mentioned, are at an all-time high with no end in sight. In most parts of the country a gallon of gas is somewhere around the $2 mark, up 30 percent since George Bush took office. A 30 percent increase in gas prices means a lot more profit for this president’s friends in the oil industry but for most middle class Americans the Bush tax increase is a tax increase that they can’t afford. Four years ago when he was running for president, George Bush said, quote, what I think the president ought to do is get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say, “we expect you to open your spigots.” Today, four years later with gas prices at a record level, we’re still waiting for George Bush to make that phone call. At the end of the day, George Bush just couldn’t get it done, and we deserve a president who can.
KWAME HOLMAN: Sen. Kerry then briefly described his own five-point energy plan which includes tax incentives for investing in energy technology and developing alternative sources of energy.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: We may not have the greatest oil reserves on earth, but let me tell you, we have the greatest reserves and resources of intellect and invention. We know how to find fuel and conserve and optimize the traditional ones. So the trust fund that I propose will take the existing royalties that corporations now pay for the right to drill on your land, public land, and since you’re giving up the public land for that effort, we’re going to put it in a public kind of trust so that we have the money to do the research and development so we can have cleaner and more abundant energy sources. New Mexico’s laboratories can play a critical role in that future.
We will create 500,000 new clean-energy jobs in America immediately by providing incentives to invest in clean energy technologies and encourage job creation; here in New Mexico, places like the new wind farm in Craig County. You’ve seen how investments in renewable energy protect the environment while they also produce new jobs; for the sake of our children, for the sake of our security, for the sake of our economy, for the sake of our environment, for the sake of our generational responsibility to those who come behind us, so that we can look at our children and say,” we left you this place in better shape than we were given it by our parents,” that’s the challenge, that’s the challenge. Let’s go out and get this job done. Thank you and God bless you all. (Cheers and applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: John Kerry will remain in New Mexico tonight and most of tomorrow before heading to Arizona for Wednesday night’s debate. President Bush will attend a rally in Colorado Springs before he moves on to Arizona.