Bush Says Kerry Sending "Mixed Signals" To Enemy, Demoralizing US Troops
President Bush continued to hit Sen. Kerry on the Iraq issue yesterday. Bush was in King of Prussia, a Philadelphia suburb, for what had been billed as an education forum. However, it was his attack on Kerry over Iraq that got the most media attention. CBS Evening News said Bush "kept hammering away today at John Kerry's position on Iraq" as "part of a coordinated campaign to show John Kerry is shifting in the wind. Republican strategists claim that the effort to paint John Kerry as a flip flopper has broken through and there is some evidence to back that up." The Philadelphia Inquirer notes Bush criticized Kerry for "sending mixed signals" to the enemy in Iraq, saying, "The President of the United States must speak clearly and mean what he says." The Washington Post adds that the President also accused Kerry of "demoralizing Iraqis and US troops." Adopting a mocking tone, says Reuters, the President told the crowd, "He has had many different positions on Iraq. Incredibly, this week he said he would prefer the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein to the situation in Iraq today."
Vice President Cheney, visiting Capitol Hill, echoed Bush's charges. NBC Nightly News reports Cheney "suggested that electing Kerry could lead to retreat." Cheney was shown saying, "The last thing we need is to convey the impression that terrorists can change our policies through violence and intimidation."
Local TV coverage of Bush's Pennsylvania trip was widespread. In the Keystone State, however, local newscasts focused primarily on Bush's praise of education reform achieved by the No Child Left Behind Act and his plans to help improve teacher pay in a second term. Many reports also noted that Bush toured flood-damaged areas in Pennsylvania and had declared federal disaster areas in several additional counties. Outside Pennsylvania, local TV coverage focused almost exclusively on Bush's comments about Iraq. For example, WFMZ-TV of Philadelphia said Bush "stressed his resolve on Iraq, but topic 'A' was education. . . . With teachers and students behind him in King of Prussia. . .Bush spoke about No Child Left Behind and the progress the program is making." Meanwhile, WDIV-TV of Detroit reported that the "political battle over the war in Iraq again today eclipsed the other issues in the race for the White House. . . . The President went to Pennsylvania for an education event, but talked about the war and John Kerry." Bush was shown saying, "The way to secure Iraq and bring our troops home as quickly as possible is not to wilt or waver or send mixed signals to the enemy."