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Bush asks McCain to help block 527s

Kerry defends Vietnam record, campaigning in Minnesota

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• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry
John McCain
America Votes 2004

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (CNN) -- President Bush wants to work with Sen. John McCain to take legal action against "shadowy" outside groups that have been spending millions of dollars on ads criticizing the president and Democratic rival Sen. John Kerry, the White House said Thursday.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush called the GOP senator from Arizona on Thursday morning and said that, if legal action does not work, he wants to pursue legislative action against the groups.

McClellan said McCain told Bush that he thought it was a good idea that the two men work together.

The groups, known as 527s after the federal provision that makes them tax-exempt and allows them to accept unlimited donations, have been at the focus of the presidential campaign in recent weeks because of commercials criticizing Kerry's record during the Vietnam War.

But the president's campaign also has complained about groups running anti-Bush commercials.

Both sides have taken their grievances to the Federal Election Commission.

Democrats have urged Bush to condemn ads run by the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that accused Kerry of lying to get his three Purple Hearts, Silver Star and Bronze Star during his Vietnam service.

Though Bush has said Kerry "served admirably" in Vietnam, the commander in chief has not condemned the commercials.

Instead, he has called for these groups, such as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, MoveOn and others, to stop airing political ads. (Bush urges Kerry to condemn 527s)

McCain, a Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war, also has urged the president to condemn the ads.

He told The New York Times that he took Bush at his word when he denied any involvement with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads but said he planned to "express my displeasure'' about the situation to the president, the paper reported Thursday.

He also told the Times that he wished the Kerry campaign would not use a commercial that shows McCain criticizing Bush for negative ads against him during the race for the 2000 Republican nomination.

Kerry spokesman David Wade said the Democratic presidential candidate's campaign would stop running those ads.

Kerry blasts GOP 'playbook'

Meanwhile, Kerry told a crowd in Anoka, Minnesota, that he was "telling the God's honest truth" about his service in Vietnam and disputed criticism that he "waffles" on issues.

"You're now learning about the lie that was put out there," Kerry said at Anoka Technical College. "All the guys who were with me in the specific action where they could see it absolutely document what I said."

"The U.S. Navy 35 years ago, when it was fresh, did its own documentation. Those documents stand, and I am absolutely telling you the God's honest truth about what happened and what took place over there."

Asked by an audience member whether he "waffles" on issues, Kerry called the criticism "standard Republican playbook."

Kerry said it is true that he voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada, but said he doesn't like the way three of its labor-standard provisions are being enforced.

"Is opposing the Homeland Security Department and then suddenly embracing it when the newspapers write something -- is that flip-flopping?" Kerry asked, referring to Bush's initial position on the department.

"Is telling us [national security adviser] Condoleezza Rice [before the 9/11 panel] is not going to testify and then she does testify -- is that a flip-flop?

"Is telling you you're going to fund No Child Left Behind, then stripping it of $27 million, is that a flip-flop?

"Let's get real here," Kerry said.

"It's the same thing they said about Bill Clinton. It's standard Republican playbook. It's the same thing they said about Al Gore. It's the same thing they said about John McCain."

The crowd gave Kerry a standing ovation after his response to the questions.

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