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Bush, Kerry Debate bin Laden Tape

With three days to go before the U.S. election, President Bush and Democratic challenger Senator John Kerry are both reacting to the newly-released video tape from terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. White House correspondent Scott Stearns reports from Florida, where the president is in the final stretch of his campaign for re-election.

President Bush and Senator Kerry both say they are determined to hunt down Osama bin Laden and do not want his new video tape to farther divide Americans along already fractious political lines.

But that appears to be as far as the candidates' agreement goes.

Senator Kerry says the president's decision to invade Iraq diverted attention and resources away from the fight against terrorism and the hunt for the al-Qaeda leader following the fall of the Taleban government in Afghanistan.

"As I have said for two years now, when Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida were cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora, it was wrong to outsource the job of capturing them to Afghan warlords, who, a week earlier, were fighting against us, instead of using the best trained troops in the world, who wanted to avenge America for what happened in New York and Pennsylvania and Washington," he said.

As president, Senator Kerry told voters in the Midwest state of Wisconsin that he would conduct a smarter, more effective, tougher, and more strategic fight against terrorism.

President Bush says it is "shameful" that his Democratic opponent is second-guessing the actions of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Mr. Bush says those troops were actively involved in the hunt for bin Laden, and American commanders at the time had intelligence information that the terrorist leader may not have been in those mountains anyway.

In a secure video link from the campaign trail Saturday, President Bush discussed the bin Laden tape with senior national security advisors. White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the president told his aides to make sure the government is taking all necessary action in response to the tape, which includes threats of more terrorist attacks.

On the tape, Osama bin Laden says U.S. security is not in the hands of President Bush or Senator Kerry or al-Qaeda, but is instead in the hands of Americans themselves and their influence over U.S. policy in the Middle East.

President Bush told Republican supporters in the Midwest state of Michigan that U.S. security is in the hands of the American president, and that by re-electing him, the nation will be safer.

"Americans will go to the polls in a time of war and ongoing threats unlike any we have faced before," he said. "The terrorists who killed thousands of innocent people are still dangerous and determined to strike. The outcome of this election will set the direction of the war against terror. The most solemn duty of the American president is to protect the American people."

It is too soon to say which candidate might benefit more from the very public re-emergence of Osama bin Laden and too close to Election Day for any reliable public opinion polling on the issue.

Democratic officials say the terrorist leader's appearance reminds American voters that the president has failed to capture a man who he once famously said he wanted, "Dead or Alive."

Republican officials say the bin Laden tape reminds Americans that they are still at risk from another terrorist attack. Opinion polls show dealing with that threat is the president's strongest issue with voters. The tape may also distract from Senator Kerry's strongest issue - dealing with the U.S. economy.

President Bush campaigned in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Florida Saturday ahead of another day of campaigning in Florida Sunday. Senator Kerry campaigned in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio with scheduled stops Sunday in Ohio, New Hampshire, and Florida.