President Bush, Senator Kerry Hit the Campaign Trail After the First Debate
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KWAME HOLMAN: The first campaign stop of the day for President Bush was Allentown, Pennsylvania, and a late-morning rally in the LeHigh Valley.
The president was introduced to the sun-drenched crowd by Arizona Sen. John McCain, who had traveled with the president from Miami, site of last night’s debate.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: This president showed last night he has the strength, he has the courage. He has not wavered. He will not waver.
We will prevail under his leadership. We will win this war on terror. We will win this war in Iraq. ( Applause )
KWAME HOLMAN: But before leaving Miami this morning with the president, McCain told reporters he also thought John Kerry’s performance in the debate was his brightest moment in six weeks, and that he presented himself well.
President Bush, however, spent the first ten minutes before his Pennsylvania supporters criticizing what Sen. Kerry had to say during the debate concerning the war on terror, and Iraq.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The cornerstone of Sen. Kerry’s plan for Iraq is that he would convene a summit. (Booing) I’ve been to a lot of summits. I’ve never seen a meeting that would depose a tyrant or bring a terrorist to justice.
Sen. Kerry claims that he can work with our allies, yet he said those who are standing with us are not a part of a genuine coalition. (Boos) He earlier called them a “coalition of the coerced and the bribed”; dismissed their sacrifices as “window dressing.” You cannot lead by pushing away the allies who are already with us, or expect any support for a cause you’ve called a “mistake” or a “grand diversion” or “the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The way to lead this coalition is not to be disdainful or dismissive. The way to lead this coalition to victory is to be clear in our thinking, grateful for the sacrifices, and resolute in our determination to defeat the enemy. (Applause)
One other point I want to make about the debate last night: Sen. Kerry last night said that America has to pass some sort of global test before we can use American troops to defend ourselves. He wants our national security decisions subject to the approval of a foreign government.
Listen, I’ll continue to work with our allies and the international community, but I will never submit America’s national security to an international test. The use of troops to defend America must never be subject to a veto by countries like France. The president’s job is not to take an international poll, the president’s job is to defend America.
KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, John Kerry remained in Florida, traveling to Tampa on the gulf coast for an early-afternoon rally at the University of South Florida. There, he fired back at the president on the Iraq issue.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: My friends, I laid out a policy last night, and the president keeps trying to debate himself on this. He keeps trying… he keeps trying to say, “well, we don’t want somebody who wants to leave. We don’t want somebody…” you know, he says “we don’t want to wilt or waver.” I don’t know how many times I heard that.
Well, Mr. President, nobody is talking about leaving. Nobody’s talking about wilting and wavering. We’re talking about winning and getting the job done right. That’s what we’re talking about. (Applause) Now, this is actually even more incredible.
Just today on the front page of some of the newspapers in America, there’s a story of how the inspector-general of the Homeland Security Department issued a scathing report of what the administration has not done to unite the watch lists, so that when you get off an airplane or come into the country we’re operating off of one watch list.
This is the single biggest task of the Homeland Security Department. It’s a complete failure. And yet, this president stands there and pretends to America we’re doing all that we can. So I raised the subject last night. I said, Mr. President — and you know about this because you have 14 ports here in Florida– 95 percent of the containers coming into America don’t get inspected.
And what does the president say in response? He says, “I don’t know how you are going to pay for all of that. You’re going to have a tax gap.” My friends, this is the president who created a tax gap by providing a tax cut to the wealthiest Americans, instead of investing it in the homeland security of the United States. Let’s get real. ( Cheers and applause )
KWAME HOLMAN: John Kerry scheduled a second Florida rally this evening near Orlando. President Bush moved on to campaign in New Hampshire.