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Kerry slams Bush on terrorism

Democrats campaign as Super Tuesday looms

Sen. John Kerry acknowledges the audience as he prepares to deliver a speech Friday in Los Angeles, California.
Sen. John Kerry acknowledges the audience as he prepares to deliver a speech Friday in Los Angeles, California.

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Sunday, February 29: Puerto Rico Republican primary

"Super Tuesday," March 2: Primaries in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Georgia; caucuses in Minnesota

When is your primary? For more key dates in the 2004 election season, see our special America Votes 2004 Election Calendar
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Trolling for votes in the delegate-rich Golden State, Democratic front-runner John Kerry slammed President Bush Friday for alienating allies and doing "too little" in the war on terror.

"I don't fault George Bush for doing too much on the war on terror," Kerry told an audience at the University of California at Los Angeles. "I believe he's done too little. Where's he's acted, his doctrine of unilateral pre-emption has driven away our allies and cost us the support and critical cooperation of other nations. Iraq is in disarray with American troops still bogged down with no exit in sight."

Kerry, a four-term U.S. senator from Massachusetts, mentioned Bush by name more than a dozen times in his speech, reflecting his strategy of focusing on the Republican incumbent and not on his strongest Democratic challenger for the nomination -- Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

The two men, along with U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton, debated Thursday night in Los Angeles, gently jousting over Iraq, same-sex marriage, the death penalty, trade and other issues.(Full story)

The candidates debate again Sunday in New York in advance of Super Tuesday, the March 2 lineup of 10 states and 1,151 delegates.(CNN.com's interactive Election Calendar)

Edwards moved onto St. Paul, Minnesota Friday, where he appealed to supporters of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who dropped out of the race last week. Edwards seemed to address critics who say he lacks the experience to occupy the Oval Office. Edwards is in his first term as U.S. senator, his only elected office.

"Is this guy ready for this fight?" Edwards asked rhetorically. "I've been getting ready for this fight my whole life. I am so ready for this fight, you have to give me a shot at George Bush. If you give me a shot at George Bush, I will give you back the White House."

While Edwards is hoping to win Dean's supporters, Kerry has picked up the endorsements of many Democratic political stars.

Democratic sources said Sen. Bob Graham of Florida will endorse Kerry next week. Graham was part of the original 10-person field seeking the Democratic nomination, but he dropped out late last year. He is sometimes mentioned as a possible running mate, and Graham said recently he would accept the No. 2 spot if offered.

In his speech Friday, Kerry pressed for renewed alliances with other nations, reliable intelligence and vigorous law enforcement as part of the war on terrorism.

He accused the Bush administration of having an ad-hoc approach to stamping out terrorism, and said the United States must restore its alliances with other nations for a more coordinated approach. Many countries objected to the U.S. invasion of Iraq last year.

"We cannot win the war on terror through military power alone," Kerry said.

Kerry also accused the White House of not cooperating with an independent investigation into intelligence surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

"I believe it is in America's interest to know the truth about 9/11," Kerry said. "Mr. President, stop stonewalling the commission and stop hiding behind excuses."

At about the same time Kerry spoke, House Speaker Dennis Hastert announced in Washington that he would support a two-month extension for the 9/11 panel to complete its work, something he had opposed earlier in the week.(Full story)

A Bush spokesman dismissed Kerry's speech as nothing more than "rhetoric."


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