Politics of Terror
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JIM LEHRER: Now, how terrorism has become part of the presidential campaign. We begin with President Bush, listing his achievements in combating terrorism yesterday at the White House.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: My most solemn duty is to protect our country. It’s our most solemn duty as well. In the three years since our country was attacked, we’ve taken steps to overcome new threats. We will continue to do everything in our power to defeat the terrorist enemy and to protect the American people.
Across the world, we’ve aggressively pursued the al-Qaida terrorists, destroyed their training camps, and ended their sanctuaries. We’re working closely with other countries to gather intelligence and make arrests and to cut off terrorist finances. We’ve created a new unified Department of Homeland Security, and gave it resources and the authority to defend America. We’re employing the latest equipment and know-how to secure our borders, air and seaports, and infrastructure. We’re bringing the best technologies to bear against the threat of chemical and biological warfare. Project Bio Shield will fund cutting-edge drugs and other defenses against a biological, chemical, nuclear, or radiological attack. To track terrorists and disrupt their cells and seize their assets, we’re using the tools of the Patriot Act. Congress needs to extend this important law.
Congress needs to make sure law enforcement have the tools necessary to defend the country. We’ve transformed the FBI to focus on the prevention of terrorist attacks. We’re continuing to expand and strengthen the capabilities of the Central Intelligence Agency. We established the terrorist threat integration center to merge and analyze in a single place foreign and domestic intelligence on global terror.
Yet the work of securing this vast nation is not done. The elevation of the threat level in New York and New Jersey and Washington, D.C., is a serious reminder, a solemn reminder, of the threat we continue to face. All the institutions of our government must be fully prepared for a struggle against terror that will last into the future. Our goal is an integrated, unified, national intelligence effort. Therefore, my administration will continue moving forward with additional changes to the structure and organization of our intelligence agencies.
JIM LEHRER: John Kerry also raised the issue of terrorism several times while he campaigned yesterday in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Today the president came out in the Rose Garden and made an announcement that he’s going to adopt, after opposing it last week and before that, he’s going to adopt some of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Ladies and gentlemen, the job of the president of the United States is to keep America as safe as possible. It’s to do everything in your power that’s available to you to make America safe. Sept. 11 was 2001. Sept. 11, 2002, came and went. Sept. 11, 2003, came and went. Sept. 11, 2004, is almost here, and only finally are we doing some of the things that some of us have been calling for all that period of time.
We need leadership. We need leadership that makes America stronger. And if we’re at war and it’s so urgent, we shouldn’t be waiting. We ought to get Congress back and get the job done right now and make America safer. (Applause) Let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, I defended this nation as a young man and I will defend it as president of the United States of America.
My friends, I can fight a more effective, smarter war on terror that makes our nation safer. And I can do it because I understand, number one, yes, you have to take it to the terrorists. Of course you do. You’ve got to know who they are. You’ve got to know where they are. You’ve got to be able to go get them before they get us. But to do that, you’ve got to have the best intelligence in the world and to have the best intelligence in the world. You’ve got to have the best cooperation from other countries we’ve ever had.
This administration doesn’t know how to do that. I do. I understand that working with other countries is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength and we’re going to make America strong.