Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry accused Republicans of using fear and smear tactics Tuesday, as he sought to refocus his campaign on domestic and foreign policy issues.
During a speech in New York City, Senator Kerry said it was time for what he called "a truthful and robust debate" about values in this year's election campaign.
Senator Kerry has been dogged by questions about his war record in Vietnam in recent days and on Tuesday sought to shift the debate back to domestic and foreign policy issues.
"The Bush campaign and it's allies have turned to the tactics of fear and smear because they can't talk about jobs, health care, energy independence and rebuilding our alliances," he said.
Mr. Kerry took aim at the president's economic record, particularly his tax cuts. The Massachusetts Democrat said the tax cut plan has helped wealthy Americans at the expense of the middle class.
"My duty, as I understand it, is to be a president who stands with the middle class, with the families, with their hopes, their struggles, a president who has a plan to strengthen our economy," he said. "A president who knows a stronger America begins at home."
Republicans are preparing for their national convention in New York next week. They contend the president's tax cuts have helped to create more than one million new jobs since last year.
Senator Kerry's attempt to refocus the campaign comes after days of debate over his service in Vietnam and his anti-war activities in the early 1970s. The controversy was sparked by a veterans group that says the Massachusetts Democrat lied about some of his combat experiences in Vietnam.
Former Republican Senator Bob Dole said the group had raised some serious questions about Mr. Kerry's war record. He spoke on CNN's Late Edition.
"I think Senator Kerry needs to talk about his Senate record, which is pretty thin," said Mr. Dole. "That is probably why he is talking about his war record, which is pretty confused."
Senator Kerry has accused the veteran's group of acting as a front organization for the Bush campaign. But Bush campaign officials have said they have no involvement with the veterans group raising the questions about Senator Kerry.