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Bush Weekly Radio Address Focuses on Terrorism; Kerry Discusses Stem Cell Research - 2004-08-07

President Bush in his radio address Saturday defended the administration's decision to elevate the terrorism threat levels in New York and Washington. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry used his radio address to talk about another issue that could play a role in the election campaign, stem cell research.

President Bush says higher terrorism threat levels for New York, northern New Jersey and Washington are a grim reminder of the dangers Americans continue to face.

The Bush administration was criticized this past week by some Democrats who questioned whether there were political motivations behind increasing the threat level in those areas. The administration initially said the decision was based on intelligence that al-Qaida terrorists had cased financial targets in those areas as long as three years ago.

In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush said the decision was based on evidence showing that some of that information had been recently updated, along with other new intelligence, which buttressed information already gathered.

"My most solemn duty as president is to protect our country, and in the three years since our country was attacked, we have taken important steps to overcome terrorist threats to this nation," he said.

Even with those steps, the president says, Americans are still not safe. That is why, he says, he is creating a new National Intelligence Director to oversee and coordinate U.S. foreign and domestic intelligence gathering. "The National Intelligence Director will assume the broader responsibility of leading the intelligence community across our government, and he or she will have the resources and authority to meet that responsibility," he added.

A new intelligence director was one of the recommendations of the bipartisan commission investigating the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but that commission wanted a director with budgetary control over all intelligence gathering. The president's plan leaves the existing system intact.

Democratic challenger John Kerry has criticized the president's response to the commission's recommendations. But he chose to use his party's radio address to focus, instead, on a politically divisive domestic issue: scientific research involving human stem cells.

Three years ago, President Bush restricted that research, which is opposed by many anti-abortion activists because days-old human embryos are destroyed to harvest stem cells, which have the potential to form any kind of human tissue.

Senator Kerry says people of good will and good sense can resolve the ethical issues, without stopping life-saving research.

"At this very moment, some of the most pioneering cures and treatments are right at our fingertips. But because of the stem cell ban, they remain beyond our reach. This is not the way we do things in America. Here in America, we don't sacrifice science for ideology," said Mr. Kerry.

If elected, Senator Kerry says he will lift the ban on stem cell research.

With less than 90 days before the election, both candidates have a full week of campaigning ahead. President Bush travels to the states of Virginia, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, and Iowa. Senator Kerry campaigns in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California.