President Bush says Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry's vote against a military funding bill raises questions about his ability to lead the nation. One year ago Sunday, Senator Kerry and his Democratic running mate, Senator John Edwards voted against an $87-billion spending bill for U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At the time, Senator Kerry said he wanted the extra funding to come from rolling back parts of President Bush's record tax cuts instead of adding to the federal deficit.
Ever since, at nearly every campaign stop, President Bush criticizes the Senator's vote and his subsequent comment that he actually did vote for the spending bill before he voted against it.
On the anniversary of that vote, President Bush says what he calls Senator Kerry's many and conflicting positions on the issue call into question the Massachusetts Democrat's credibility as well as his ability to lead the nation.
"In September 2003, as the $87-billion funding package was being debated, Senator Kerry said it would be irresponsible to abandon our troops by voting against the measure," the president said. "Just one month later, he did exactly that irresponsible thing and he abandoned our troops in combat by voting against the funding."
President Bush told a rally of Republican supporters at an ice hockey rink that Senator Kerry changed his mind because he was losing ground in the Democratic primaries to a rival candidate running on an anti-war platform.
"Senator Kerry apparently decided supporting the troops, even while they were in harms way, was not as important as shoring up his own political position," he said. "At a time of great threat to our country, at a time of great challenge in the world, the Commander-in-Chief must stand on principle, not the shifting sands of political convenience."
The president uses Senator Kerry's vote as part of a Republican effort to portray the Democratic challenger as a political opportunist who is out of touch with American values, especially on more socially conservative issues including the president's call for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
"He voted against the ban on the brutal practice of partial birth abortion," he continued. "One time in this campaign he claimed he was the candidate of conservative values, but he has described the Reagan years as a time of moral darkness. There is a mainstream in American politics, and my opponent sits on the far left bank. He can run, but he cannot hide."
President Bush and Senator Kerry have been campaigning hard in Florida where both parties believe they have a chance to win the state that ultimately decided the election four years ago.
Both candidates will be back in Florida on Monday as voting begins here more than two weeks before Election Day. Floridians can cast their ballots at any point during that time, but they are not counted until the rest of the nation votes November 2.
Accompanied by his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and the country-western singer John W. Stone, the president is using this bus tour to urge supporters to get out and vote early to give him and Vice President Dick Cheney another four years in office.