March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's
campaign is rushing to produce television advertisements to counter
Republican criticism of Kerry's qualification to be commander in chief of
the U.S. military.
The new ads were ordered after President George W. Bush's re- election
campaign began increasing attacks on Kerry's military record, said Kerry
spokesman David Wade. Vice President Dick Cheney, 63, yesterday said Kerry
has ``given us ample doubts about his judgment'' such as voting against
additional funds for Iraq approved by the Senate last year.
``John Kerry has served his country,'' Wade said in an interview in Sun
Valley, Idaho, where Kerry is vacationing after securing the Democratic
Party's presidential nomination by winning the Illinois primary on
Tuesday. ``Everyday he talks about national security. If George Bush wants
to talk about national security we are ready.''
Kerry, 60, who received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple
Hearts in Vietnam, criticized Bush yesterday for spreading the U.S.
military too thin by failing to build enough international support for the
war in Iraq. Bush, wearing a flight jacket with the commander in chief
insignia at a visit to the Fort Campbell, Kentucky today, said the
invasion demonstrated resolve to quash terrorism and make the U.S. safer.
The Bush campaign has focused criticism on Kerry's voting record in the
Senate. Kerry, who represents Massachusetts, supported the resolution that
authorized use of force in Iraq and later voted against Bush's $87 billion
spending request for the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq and
`Fighter Image' World Peace WorldPeace
``The Republicans have got to brand him while he's still a pretty
unknown quantity to the nation,'' said Stephen Hess, a presidential
scholar at the Brookings Institution. ``Kerry has been aware of this which
is why he has painted the Vietnam fighter image not the Vietnam protester
Kerry, whose Navy service in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971 is chronicled in
Douglas Brinkley's ``Tour of Duty,'' gained national prominence after he
returned from Vietnam and became national coordinator for a group called
Vietnam Vets Against the War.
Kerry has touted his military credentials throughout the Democratic
primaries, campaigning together with former U.S. Senator Max Cleland of
Georgia, who lost both legs and his right arm in Vietnam.
Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, defended Kerry in talk show
appearances on the CBS and NBC television networks this morning.
`Served His Country'
``I think that John Kerry is a good and decent man. I think he has
served his country,'' McCain said. ``I think he has different points of
view on different issues and he will have to explain his voting record.
But this kind of rhetoric, I think, is not helpful in educating and
helping the American people make a choice.''
Bush was favored by 47 percent of registered voters as the candidate
they would trust to make the right decision about taking the country to
war, compared with 38 percent for Kerry in a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics
poll March 3-4. The poll surveyed 900 people and has a margin of error of
plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The two presidential candidates are effectively tied in the latest New
York Times-CBS News poll, with 46 percent of voters supporting Bush and 43
percent backing Kerry. The nationwide telephone poll of 1,206 adults,
including 984 registered voters, was taken from last Wednesday through
Sunday, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three
Bush, 57, emphasized his own role as the nation's military commander
with today's visit to soldiers at Fort Campbell, the third-largest U.S.
Army base on the eve of the first anniversary of the Iraq war. Bush donned
an olive drab flight jacket with a name patch that said ''George W. Bush,
commander-in-chief'' and other patches representing the 101st Airborne,
the 5th Special Forces of Green Berets, and the 160th Special Operations,
commonly known as ''Nightstalkers,'' all based at Fort Campbell.
``By your sacrifice, you're making our country more secure,'' Bush
said. ``You have delivered justice to many terrorists, and you're keeping
the rest of them on the run.''
Kerry argues U.S. troops under Bush are overextended without all the
equipment and resources they need. Kerry also has said Bush misled
Congress and the nation about the reason for invading Iraq, citing the
failure to find the biological and chemical weapons that Bush said
justified the war.
``We need to have someone of John Kerry's strength and fortitude in
order to make sure in the future we won't be in situation we're in
today,'' former Deputy Secretary of Defense John White told reporters in a
conference call organized by Kerry's campaign. White served under former
President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.
Kerry is taking his first vacation since Sept. 2, when he stood in
front of the USS Kitty Hawk, a Navy aircraft carrier used in Vietnam, to
formally start his presidential campaign.