JIM LEHRER: President Bush and Sen. Kerry spent the day preparing for Thursday night's debate, while their running mates did the campaign work. Kwame Holman has our report.
KWAME HOLMAN: Today Vice President Dick Cheney made his third campaign trip this month to Iowa, appearing at an invitation-only event at the grand river center in downtown Dubuque. With wife Lynne at his side, the vice president explained why he believed this election is so important.
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: I really believe, as I have often said, that this election could not come at a more crucial time in our history. The enemy we face now is every bit as intent on destroying us as were the axis powers in World War II.
In the words of the 9/11 Commission which reported a few weeks ago, "the enemy is sophisticated, patient, disciplined and lethal." This is, to put it quite simply, an enemy we must destroy. And George W. Bush is our commander-in-chief and that's exactly what we're about.
KWAME HOLMAN: Vice President Cheney went on the list several Bush administration successes in the war against terror.
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: In Afghanistan, we've ended the Taliban regime. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein, of course, is in jail. We've broken up terror cells around the world and captured or killed thousands of terrorists.
We're helping the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq now to build democratic governments because we know that free nations will not be breeding grounds for terror. These are not easy tasks. But despite the worst predictions of the pessimists, we are succeeding. Afghanistan's first democratic election will be held Oct. 9. And Iraq will have elections next January.
KWAME HOLMAN: The vice president also argued that John Kerry's record as senator and as presidential candidate make him unqualified to the commander-in-chief.
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: In his 20 years in the Senate and two years on the presidential campaign trail, Sen. Kerry has given every indication that he lacks the conviction necessary to prevail in the war on terror. (Applause) during the 1980s, Sen. Kerry opposed Ronald Reagan's major defense initiatives that brought victory in the Cold War.
In 1991, when Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait, and stood poised to dominate the Persian Gulf, Sen. Kerry voted against Operation Desert Storm. After the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, Sen. Kerry proposed to cut the intelligence budget by $6 billion, a move so radical that even Ted Kennedy wouldn't support it. In the present conflict, he has shown endless vacillation and indecision.
He makes repeated changes in direction that seem to be in response to his own standing in the polls or his most recent campaign advisers. Now, with 35 days left in the campaign, and just in time for the debates, Sen. Kerry says he has a plan for Iraq. Yet the plan he announced is not a plan. It's an echo of the strategy that President Bush laid out many months ago. President Bush has said: Now is the time and Iraq is the place in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world. We must not waver.
Sen. Kerry's continued wavering in this campaign, opposing the war but claiming the president's plan as his own, calling himself an alliance builder, then belittling America's closest friends shows an agenda, not of conviction, but of political opportunism, and his record establishes that he is not prepared to lead America in the war on terror.
KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, the man who would-be vice president spoke at a rally in Pittsburgh on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University. Sen. Edwards fired back at the charges being leveled at John Kerry by the Bush-Cheney ticket and its allies.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: When you listen to our opponents, you know, as they engage in some of their fear-mongering, which you've heard over the last few weeks, you know, you heard the vice president say a couple weeks ago that if you didn't vote for George Bush and Dick Cheney, and there were another terrorist attack somehow it's your fault. Right? Remember hearing that?
Then we had the speaker of the House, who joined this choir, suggesting that al-Qaida wanted John Kerry to be elected president. Then most recently, just a few days ago, they put out a new attack ad against John Kerry where they show a picture of Osama bin Laden, images from the World Trade Center and suggest that John Kerry will not keep you safe.
Well, let me just say this in very simple language: For them to exploit one of the great tragedies in American history for personal gain is wrong, and the American voter needs to say that it's wrong come November.
KWAME HOLMAN: Sen. Edwards made note of today's New York Times report that thousands of hours of terrorism-related recordings intercepted before and after the 9/11 attacks have yet to be translated by the FBI.
SEN JOHN EDWARDS: That's how far behind they are, 120,000 hours of tapes that have not been translated. We don't know what's on these tapes. We don't know what information was there that could keep the American people safe all because this administration has not kept up to date.
They have not done their job. The one thing I can tell you is when John Kerry is our president, we will make sure that we have the translators to get the information we need to keep this country safe.
KWAME HOLMAN: Mr. Edwards argued the Bush administration's fight against global terrorism has been woefully inadequate.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: If you look at what's happened in Afghanistan, we went in, this administration, they went in, got rid of the Taliban, but now this t country is returning back to its pre-Taliban condition, lots of parts of the country are under the control of warlords, drug lords. Their heroin, opium production is way up again. And the result is it's once again becoming place where terrorist groups might thrive.
Don't hear much about Osama bin Laden anymore, do you? Not from this administration. Well, we will not take our eyes off the people who perpetrated the attacks of Sept. 11. We will make sure that we go after these people relentlessly. (Applause)
We're also not going to allow what's happened under this administration, which is went into Afghanistan, toppled the Taliban and very quickly shifted attention, right, to Iraq, which I'm going to talk about in just a minute, but while all this is going on, remember President Bush giving his speech. He said that there was an axis of evil. Remember that? The axis of evil, he said, was Iraq, Iran and North Korea, right? Well, what's happened with Iran and North Korea? Do you hear George Bush talking about Iran and North Korea? What's happened with Iran and North Korea is Iran's moved forward with their nuclear weapons program.
Creates an extraordinary risk of instability to that region of the world in the Middle East, and North Korea's moved forward with its nuclear weapons program -- going from one to two nuclear weapons up to as many as eight or ten nuclear weapons. Both of them are moving forward and the threat is growing every single day.
KWAME HOLMAN: Sen. Edwards rallied supporters this evening in new jersey and is scheduled to campaign through West Virginia tomorrow. Vice President Cheney was expected to speak at another rally in Au Clair, Wisconsin tonight before traveling to Minnesota for campaign events tomorrow.