Kerry calls Bush ï¿½a clever debater,ï¿½ says he will make his own policies clear
BAL HARBOUR, Fla. (AP) -- Calling President Bush ï¿½a very clever debater,ï¿½ Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry says their first appearance together Thursday night will give him the opportunity to be clear with people about where he stands on issues.
Kerry, accused by the Bush campaign of frequently changing his position on the war in Iraq, said in an interview that he can laugh at jokes about being long-winded. In a taped interview with ï¿½Good Morning Americaï¿½ on ABC, Kerry said, ï¿½I deserve that, sometimes, and look forward to the opportunity to, crystal clear, let people know where I stand.ï¿½
Asked why polls show Bush gaining support among women voters, Kerry said: ï¿½George Bush is scaring America. Heï¿½s talking terror every day, and people see terrible images of whatï¿½s happening in the world, and theyï¿½re real.ï¿½
Bush and Kerry will meet for a 90-minute debate at 9 p.m. EDT at the University of Miami. The first of their three scheduled debates focuses on foreign policy and national security, with Kerry expected to contend he can do a better job of securing the country and Bush likely to argue that the war in Iraq is necessary to the nationï¿½s safety.
Bush strategist Karl Rove said, ï¿½Thereï¿½s an opportunity for him to ... talk about his vision for the war on terror, describe the way forward in Iraq and, more broadly, in expanding freedom and liberty throughout the greater Mideast.ï¿½
Kerry said no president could say he could stop any terrorist attack. ï¿½No president can say that. But I will make America safer than George Bush has in any number of ways,ï¿½ he told ABC. ï¿½I know how to fight a more effective war on terror, and by the end of this campaign America will make that decision and thatï¿½s why Iï¿½m going to win.ï¿½
Asked if he thought Bush were smart, Kerry said: ï¿½Absolutely. Heï¿½s a very clever debater. ... Heï¿½s president. Anybody who doubts that somebody who isnï¿½t smart as president doesnï¿½t know what itï¿½s all about.ï¿½
On the campaign trail, Bush and Kerry describe Iraq in terms that could make voters wonder if theyï¿½re talking about different countries. Bush sees progress toward stability, democratic elections and civic life. Kerry sees increasing instability, little reconstruction and terrorist havens.
Bush, who points out that Saddam Hussein has been captured and security at home has been improved, portrays the Massachusetts Democrat as too indecisive to take the bold action needed to go after terrorists. Kerry contends Bush led the nation into a war that has distracted attention and resources from the pursuit of al-Qaida and its leader, Osama bin Laden.
Wayne Fields, director of American culture studies at Washington University in St. Louis, said Bush needs to be more detailed about his policies and goals in Iraq.
ï¿½Where are we going to get the troops to go there, and whatï¿½s the cost?ï¿½ Fields said.
Kerry has argued that his own positions on Iraq have been consistent, despite the presidentï¿½s portrayal of the senator as flip-flopping between support for and opposition to the war.
ï¿½He is going to have to tell us why he voted yes and no,ï¿½ said Henry Graff, a presidential historian at Columbia University.
Alan Schroeder, a presidential debate expert at Northeastern University in Boston, said Kerry might try addressing the criticism directly, which could make him appear strong, self-aware and able to handle criticism.
ï¿½If somebody has successfully hung a rap on you, you need to throw it off, not try to rationalize it,ï¿½ Schroeder said.