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Inside Politics

Officials defend Bush from Kerry criticism

Sunday talk shows focus on foreign policy issues


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ON CNN TV
Stay with CNN-USA all evening for updates and analysis from our political team, following President Bush's trip to Pennsylvania and John Kerry's comments to an annual conference of firefighters.
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CNN's Carol Lin on John Kerry's stance about international leaders and Bush.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two top administration officials took to the airwaves Sunday to respond to criticism of President Bush by his chief rival for the White House, Democratic Sen. John Kerry.

The arguments focused on international issues and came as the matchup between Bush and Kerry intensifies, with the two candidates attacking each other on the campaign trail and in new television advertisements.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said on "Fox News Sunday" that Kerry was wrong to suggest recently that Libya's decision to give up its unconventional weapons may have been delayed to make it look like a positive result of the Iraq war, and therefore benefit Bush's campaign.

"I don't know what Senator Kerry's talking about," said Powell. "It is offensive because it's a political charge in a political year. ... I mean, what is his evidence for this, other than an assertion on his part?"

Kerry was likely referring to an op-ed article former Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart wrote for The Washington Post in January.

Hart said representatives from the Libyan government asked him in 1992 to act as a go-between as they tried to normalize relations with the United States.

Hart said he was rebuffed and that first Bush administration was not willing to discuss the issue with the Libyans.

The former senator from Colorado said his "experience 12 years ago suggests a missed opportunity to curb Libya well before Iraq."

Powell also called on Kerry to name the foreign leaders he said last week have told him they want him to beat Bush.

Kerry told a group of fund-raisers Monday that some international leaders want him to win the general election in November and unseat Bush.

"If he feels it is that important an assertion to make, he ought to list some names," Powell said.

Kerry faced the same question at a "jobs forum" while campaigning Sunday in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

A man insisted Kerry divulge the names of those leaders. Kerry refused, saying the leaders spoke in confidence and work with the Bush administration. The man persisted and ultimately said he is a Republican and supports Bush.

"The point is that all the over the world ... America is meeting with a new level of hostility -- and there are relationships that have been broken," Kerry told reporters in Pennsylvania.

The senator from Massachusetts said the Bush administration's "arrogant and reckless foreign policy" has made America "less safe."

He promised to rebuild U.S. alliances and "offer a foreign policy that rebuilds America's ability to achieve the goals of our foreign policy more effectively than this administration has done."

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice suggested on NBC's "Meet the Press" that she believes Kerry would weaken the fight against terrorism if elected.

"If we're going to roll back the Patriot Act, the people of America are going to have to know that they're taking an enormous risk," she said. "Those are the debates we're going to have."

But Michael Donilon, senior adviser to the Kerry campaign, told CNN's "Inside Politics" that Kerry does not want to replace the Patriot Act.

"He wants to improve it," Donilon said. "And clearly, there are ways we can do that, protecting us here at home, but also protect the civil liberties. It's an important distinction between President Bush and Senator Kerry."

Powell also rejected Kerry's statements that Bush has curbed Powell's authority to influence the administration and refused to listen to him on major issues.

"The president has me right now on the lead on so many issues. ... Name a specific issue where it looks like I have been marginalized," Powell challenged.

Speaking on "Meet the Press," former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean said Kerry, unlike Bush, is an internationalist.

"We forfeited the moral leadership of this world, a position that we had been in since the end of World War I, when George Bush went into Iraq unilaterally," Dean said.

"We deserve that moral leadership title back again. I think Kerry will bring it to us."

While Dean has not endorsed Kerry, he has long said he would work for the nominee -- and an official endorsement is expected later this month.


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