Democratic challenger John Kerry says he would do a better job of fighting terrorism than President Bush by working with more of America's traditional allies. President Bush says his challenger does not understand what is needed to end the terrorist threat.
Senator Kerry spent his party's national convention championing his military service during the Vietnam War as a way of combating the president's advantages as a wartime commander-in-chief.
Senator Kerry told voters in the state of Nevada Wednesday that he understands how to fight and will defend the country as president as he defended the country as a young man in Vietnam.
But Mr. Kerry says the smart way to fight terrorism is not with what he calls the president's unilateralism. The Massachusetts Senator says having the best intelligence in the world means cooperating with other countries and understanding their cultures and languages so their people are working with America not against it.
"I have never seen the United States, our beloved country, as targeted and as alienated by so many people around the world," he said. "And what I know is the presidency of the United States is not just the presidency. It is the leadership of the free world. And we need to restore America's reputation and respect and influence around this world. And I intend to do that."
Senator Kerry says working with other countries is not a sign of weakness but is, instead a sign of strength. He says President Bush has worsened America's standing in the world by not listening to other people and acting to address their concerns.
"It's not ignoring North Korea for three years so they develop bombs and we go backwards from where we were with Bill Clinton," he said. "It's not walking away from a global warming treaty like an outlaw and just declaring it dead when 160 countries worked 10 years on it. It's paying your dues to the United Nations. It's working with other countries."
Senator Kerry says he will make America safer by fighting a more effective battle against terrorism than President Bush.
Campaigning in New Mexico, President Bush says Senator Kerry does not understand what it takes to win that fight. He says the Senator is mistaken in thinking that confronting terrorists makes more terrorist threats.
President Bush says he has worked with coalition allies in Iraq, but working with allies is not asking others for permission to defend America.
"When we see a threat, we must take it seriously before it fully materializes," he said. "That's a serious lesson of September the 11th. You see, it's a different kind of war. It's a different kind of war. We can not hope for the best anymore."
President Bush says you can not negotiate with terrorists; they must be brought to justice. The president again criticized Senator Kerry for opposing an $87 billion supplemental appropriation for the U.S. military last year, saying American troops sent into battle must have the best equipment.
Senator Kerry says he voted against that money because he wanted it to come from the president's record tax cuts instead of adding to the federal deficit.
With less than 90 days to go before Election Day, most public opinion polls show Senator Kerry with a slight lead over President Bush. Mr. Kerry scores higher on economic issues. Mr. Bush still leads on issues of fighting terrorism.