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Inside Politics

Retired general: Bush foreign policy a 'national disaster'
John F. Kerry

(CNN) -- A former Air Force chief of staff and one-time "Veteran for Bush" said Saturday that America's foreign relations for the first three years of President Bush's term have been "a national disaster" but that the president's Democratic rival was "up to the task" of rebuilding.

Retired Gen. Tony McPeak, the Air Force chief of staff during the first Gulf War, delivered the Democratic radio address supporting implementation of the 9/11 commission's recommendations for national security.

"As president, John Kerry will not waste a minute in bringing action on the reforms urged by the 9/11 commission," McPeak said of the Massachusetts senator nominated by the Democrats this week. "And he will not rest until America's defenses are strong."

The president, on the other hand, "fought against the very formation of the commission and continues to the present moment to give it only grudging cooperation, no matter what he says," the general said. "Why should we believe he will do anything to institute the needed change?"

Administration officials have said that Bush could approve some of the commission's suggested changes by early next week.

McPeak, a former fighter pilot who campaigned for Bob Dole in 1996 as well as Bush in 2000, said Bush's inability to craft a true allied coalition was a serious deficiency.

"The report of the 9/11 commission makes this clear: Fighting terrorists alone just doesn't work," he said. "If our enemy hatches a terror plot in Rome, we will need help from the Italians. If German intelligence knows the whereabouts of a senior al Qaeda member, America must have that information."

Instead, he said, Bush has "alienated our friends, damaged our credibility around the world, reduced our influence to an all-time low in my lifetime, given hope to our enemies."

McPeak said he backed Bush in 2000 because he "had hoped this president could provide" the leadership needed to face modern threats. But disillusionment, he said, has led him to change his voter registration from Republican to independent and shift his support to Kerry.

"The real deal for me is not whether a strategy or a plan or an idea is Republican or Democrat, but whether it makes us safer," he said. "And it means an awful lot to me that John Kerry fought for his country as a young man."

"We who have some experience -- who have seen war close up and sent troops to battle -- know that victory is not won by single combat," he continued. "War is not like that. War is a team sport.

"We built the team that won World War II. We put together the great team that won the Cold War. That's why what has happened over the last three years is such a tragedy, such a national disaster. Rebuilding the team won't be easy."

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