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Bush, Edwards Offer Positions on Iraq - 2004-10-02

With one month to go before the U.S. presidential election, Republicans and Democrats are campaigning hard to put their candidate over the top.

President Bush told a convention of home builders in the contested Midwest state of Ohio that Democratic challenger John Kerry's criticism of the handling of the war in Iraq and the fight against terrorism present a series of confusing contradictions.

"You can't have it both ways," said President Bush. "You can't say it's a mistake and not a mistake. You can't be for getting rid of Saddam Hussein when things look good, and against it when times are hard. You can't claim terrorists are pouring across the border into Iraq, yet, at the same time, try to claim that Iraq is somehow a diversion from the war against terrorism. A president cannot keep changing his mind. A president must be consistent. A president must speak clearly. And a president must mean what he says."

Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards says President Bush misled the country into war, without a broad enough coalition to share the financial and human costs.

"George Bush failed to tell the truth about the mess he has created in Iraq," said Senator Edwards. "And it is clear that he still has no plan to win the peace, so our troops can come home."

In the weekly Democratic radio address, Senator Edwards said a Kerry administration would rebuild America's prestige in the world by abandoning what he calls President Bush's go-it-alone approach to foreign policy.

"George Bush can't fix this mess," he said. "He created it. He can't fix it because he even refuses to admit that there is a problem. Well, John [Kerry] believes that the best way to lead is with your eyes open, so that you have a clear view of the challenges in front of us. John Kerry laid out our plan to secure the peace in Iraq. We will accelerate the training of Iraqi security forces, step up the Iraq reconstruction plan, make sure the elections go forward. And with a fresh start and a new president, John [Kerry] will restore America's credibility in the world, and increase international support to decrease the burden on our troops."

President Bush says he is working with allies to bring democracy to Iraq and bring U.S. troops home. Campaigning in Ohio, he focused on one of Senator Kerry's responses to a question in Thursday's debate.

The Democratic candidate said pre-emptive war must be done in a way that passes what he called "the global test" where the president can prove to the world that it was done for legitimate reasons.

Calling that the "Kerry Doctrine," President Bush said it means giving countries like France a veto over U.S. troops defending America.

"Senator Kerry's approach to foreign policy would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions," he said. "I have a different view. When our country is in danger, the president's job is not to take an international poll. The president's job is to defend America."

Senator Edwards and Vice President Dick Cheney debate this coming Tuesday, ahead of the second presidential debate between President Bush and Senator Kerry this coming Friday.