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President Bush and Democratic Candidate Kerry Spar Over US Security - 2004-08-02

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is criticizing President Bush for not moving faster on implementing security measures that were recently highlighted in a report by the so-called September 11 Commission. Senator Kerry and President Bush traded barbs on national security in separate appearances Monday.

Speaking at a campaign rally in the midwestern U.S. state of Michigan, Senator Kerry said he is pleased President Bush has adopted some of the 9/11 Commission' recommendations, including a decision to unify U.S. intelligence operations under a single National Intelligence Director. But the Democratic presidential candidate criticized the president for not moving quickly enough.

"If the president had a sense of urgency about this Director of Intelligence and about the needs to strengthen America, he would call the Congress back and get the job done now," he said. "That's what we need to do. That's the urgency that exists in order to make America as safe as possible. The terror alert yesterday just underscores, that if we're being serious about this, we have to move on every possible option, to make our nation as safe as possible. The time to act is now, not later."

Senator Kerry also said he agrees with assertions that current U.S. policy is creating more terrorists than it is stopping.

"The policies of this administration, I believe and others believe very deeply, have resulted in an increase of animosity and anger focused on the United States of America," he said. "And the intelligence agencies of our country will tell you and can tell you, it's not classified, that the madrasas, the schools that are teaching terror, the people who are training terror, are using our actions as a means of recruitment."

In a speech at the White House Rose Garden, President Bush said he and Senator Kerry simply have different opinions on how to wage the war on terror.

"I know in order to deal with these people, we must bring them to justice before they hurt us again. And so, we're on the offense. The best way to protect the American homeland is to stay on the offense," he said. It is a ridiculous notion to assert that because the United States is on the offense, more people want to hurt us. We're on the offense because people do want to hurt us."

In a separate news conference, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card answered Senator Kerry's charges that President Bush has not moved quickly enough to protect the United States after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"And the president took bold action when he created the Homeland Security adviser and the Homeland Security Council," he said. "He took bold action when he created the Department of Homeland Security. He took bold action when he created the Terrorist Threat Integration Center and called for the passage of the Patriot Act. And this builds on that success."

Meanwhile, World Bank employee Maya Laureden-Bonhomme says she is trying to go on with her life as normal, despite heightened terrorist alerts around several financial institutions in the United States.

"I cannot live in fear, she said. "I cannot. That's not my style. So I will come to work. I will do what I always do -- live."

New polls show little or no change in the number of Americans who support Senator Kerry, following last week's Democratic National Convention. The numbers show President Bush and his Democratic challenger with basically equal support.