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Kerry: Bush uses terrorism threat for campaign

GOP blasts 'reckless allegation'



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(CNN) -- President Bush is using the threat of terrorism as "home base" in his re-election bid, Sen. John Kerry charged Thursday, eliciting a strong rebuke from the president's campaign.

"Today's reckless allegation by Senator Kerry that the president is overemphasizing the threat of terror demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the global war on terror and the threat facing America and the world," said Marc Racicot, the Bush campaign chairman, in a statement.

"On a day when Osama bin Laden again threatened the United States and our allies, it is disturbing to realize that John Kerry neither recognizes nor understands the murderous ideology of our enemies and the threat they pose to our nation."

Kerry spokesman David Wade called the Bush campaign's reaction "more desperate attacks ... brought to you by the same people that trotted out Karl Rove to shred America's post 9/11 unity to politicize the war on terror."

The comments at the center of the dispute came Thursday when Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, attended a Democratic National Committee breakfast in New York. Cameras were not permitted at the event, but a pool reporter was allowed to attend.

Asked how he would appeal to married women with children scared about the threat of terrorism, Kerry responded, "Again, home base for George Bush in this race, as you saw to the nth degree in his press conference, is terror. Ask him a question, and he's going to go to terror."

"And everything he did in Iraq, he's going to try to persuade people it has do do with terror, even though everybody here knows that it has nothing whatsoever to do with al Qaeda and everything to do with an agenda that they had preset, determined."

In his news conference Tuesday night, Bush vowed to stay the course in Iraq and made the argument to the American people that the conflict there is part of the larger war on terror. The president also said he looked forward to comparing his strategy for combating terrorism with Kerry's approach, adding that he was confident that given that contrast, voters will choose him in November.

Kerry touched on that same contrast in his remarks Thursday, saying, "Part of my task, obviously, is to convince America -- we don't have to beat him on it, but we have to convince America of my ability to be able to manage that as effectively or more effectively, if possible. And I think we can."

"I say again and again as I campaign, 'I can wage a more effective war on terror than this administration. I will make America safer and stronger and more secure than George Bush has.'"

CNN's Mike Roselli contributed to this report.


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