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Inside Politics

Bush blasts Kerry over fund-raiser


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MARQUETTE, Michigan (CNN) -- President Bush criticized Democrats on Tuesday over a fund-raiser last week where celebrities used off-color language and called him a "thug" and a "liar."

His campaign demanded that the Kerry-Edwards campaign release footage of the event.

Speaking at a campaign stop in Michigan, Bush told supporters that "the other day, my opponent said, when he was with some entertainers from Hollywood, that they were the heart and soul of America.

"I believe the heart and soul of America is found in places right here, in Marquette, Michigan," he said, to applause from the crowd.

Republicans have been pounding the Kerry campaign for days over last Thursday's fund-raiser at Radio City Music Hall in New York, which both presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards, attended.

During the event, comedian Whoopi Goldberg made sexually explicit comments that were puns on Bush's name and singer John Mellencamp referred to the president as a "thug." Comedian Chevy Chase called Bush a "liar" and "bright as an egg timer," while actor Paul Newman called the Bush administration's tax cuts "borderline criminal." (Kerry bash raises $7.5 million)

However, Republicans have been particularly critical of Kerry's remarks at the end of the evening, when he thanked the entertainers and said they "conveyed the heart and soul of our country."

Ken Mehlman, Bush's campaign manager, sent a letter Tuesday to his counterpart in the Kerry campaign, Mary Beth Cahill, demanding that footage of the event be released.

"Do most Americans in their hearts think that calling the president a 'thug' and a 'killer' represents the 'heart and soul' of our nation? We don't think so, but we think voters should decide for themselves," he wrote.

Responding to concerns from a Kerry adviser that releasing the footage might violate copyright law and that it might be used in Bush ads, Mehlman pledged that the president's campaign would not use the footage. He also said that rules allowing "fair use" of newsworthy copyrighted material would allow its release for use by the media.

"We look forward to seeing this spirited display," he wrote.

In response, Cahill fired off her own letter to Mehlman, saying the Kerry campaign would not release the footage unless the Bush campaign released a raft of documents "relating to Bush's performance in office."

The documents include Bush's military records from his service in the Texas Air National Guard; correspondence between the Defense Department and Halliburton about no-bid contracts for Iraqi reconstruction; records of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force; correspondence between the Bush administration and the pharmaceutical industry about the Medicare drug bill, and documents about prison abuse in Iraq.

"Considering that the president has failed to even come close to keeping his promise to change the tone in Washington, we find your outrage over, and paparazzi-like obsession with, a fund-raising event to be misplaced," she wrote.


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