President’s Speech Outlines Themes for 2004 Race
The president’s speech followed days of back and forth between the Bush and Kerry campaigns over the careers of both men.
Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, accused the president and others of hypocritically questioning his patriotism in statements and campaign ads.
“I’d like to know what it is Republicans who didn’t serve in Vietnam have against those of us who did,” Kerry said.
The Bush camp responded that they were not questioning Kerry’s military service but his record in the Senate, where they say he consistently voted to weaken the defense of the United States.
Kerry denied the charges, saying he had voted against some defense bills in the past in order to control Pentagon spending.
In a Monday speech Kerry said that the early campaign attacks and statements indicate that the president is “on the run, and I think he’s on the run because he doesn’t have a record to run on.”
For his part, the president used humor Monday to present Kerry as inconsistent.
“The other party’s nomination battle is still playing out,” the president said. “The candidates are an interesting group with diverse opinions: for tax cuts and against them; for NAFTA and against NAFTA; for the Patriot Act and against the Patriot Act; in favor of liberating Iraq and opposed to it. And that’s just one senator from Massachusetts.”
President Bush said that in November voters in the United States will decide between candidates who offer clear policy choices.
“It’s a choice between keeping the tax relief that is moving the economy forward, or putting the burden of higher taxes back on the American people … between an America that leads the world with strength and confidence, or an America that is uncertain in the face of danger … between two visions of government: a government that encourages ownership and opportunity and responsibility, or a government that takes your money and makes your choices.”
The president said he “will set these alternatives squarely before the American people in a spirited campaign.”
“I look forward to the contest,” he said.
President Bush also claimed a record of “historic achievement” and a “positive vision for the years ahead.”
The president said his administration had delivered “historic” tax relief, economic growth, a successful war on terror, the liberation of 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan, a stronger military, a secure homeland, a prescription drug benefit for seniors, and improved schools.
He also addressed the criticism from Democrats who have said the president has not done enough to protect and create American jobs.
The president said policies he supports, such as tax cuts, education and training programs, business incentives, tort reform, and addressing the nation’s energy problems represent a “pro-growth, pro-entrepreneur, pro-small-business-owner agenda” that will create jobs.
The president further said his administration will face down hostile regimes such as those in Iran and North Korea.
“If America shows weakness and uncertainty, the world will drift toward tragedy,” the president said. “That will not happen on my watch.”
President Bush said the Democrats had not offered plans that will strengthen the economy or security of the country.
“Our opponents have not offered much in the way of strategies to win the war or policies to expand our economy,” the president said. “So far, all we hear is a lot of old bitterness and partisan anger. Anger is not an agenda for the future of America.”
On Tuesday Kerry criticized the president’s speech and his campaign message.
“It’s no surprise that the president chose to unveil his vision for America at a $1,000 a plate fundraiser,” Kerry said. “His contributors are getting plenty from this administration while the rest of America suffers.”
Kerry further said that he agrees with President Bush when it comes to the decision American voters will make in November.
“The president is right: we do have a different vision for America than he does,” Kerry said. “We believe in an America that’s creating jobs not losing them. We believe in an America where Americans can afford health care, not lose it in record numbers. We believe in an America where people have the freedom to fulfill their hopes and dreams, and not have them crushed by a failing economy. We believe in an America that’s stronger, not weaker.”
On Tuesday the president weighed in on another issue that could become a major dividing line in the general election, calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage as a union between a man and woman and, in effect, impose a federal ban on same-sex marriage.
“The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith,” the president said. “Ages of experience have taught humanity that the commitment of a husband and wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society. Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society.”
In an issue statement provided to the Online NewsHour Kerry said that he supports “civil unions” between same-sex couples.
“I think the debate over same-sex marriage is getting hung up over the word ‘marriage,’ and I don’t want anything to stand in the way of providing gay men and lesbians full and equal protections under the law,” Kerry said.