Thu, Jul 15, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Bush slams Kerry over star-studded NYC fund-raiser

REUTERS , DULUTH

Air Force One is reflected on the rain-soaked tarmac at Sawyer International Airport in Michigan after rain clouds passed through before US President George W. Bush departed for Minnesota on Tuesday. The president is campaigning all-day in the Midwest battleground states of Michigan and Minnesota, and plans to spend today campaigning by bus in Wisconsin.

PHOTO: REUTERS

US President George W. Bush attacked Democratic opponent John Kerry on Tuesday for expressing pride in voting against an US$87 billion funding bill for Iraq and over a fund-raising event in New York where celebrities bashed Bush.

Bush opened a wide-ranging critique of Kerry during campaign rallies on the first day of a two-day swing through three Midwestern states he lost in 2000 but would like to pick off this year -- Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. One of his 22-year-old twin daughters, Barbara, accompanied him.

Republicans have expressed outrage at a New York fund-raising event for Kerry and his vice presidential running mate, John Edwards, last week in which entertainers lined up to skewer the president.

`CHEAP THUG'

During the event, comedian Whoopi Goldberg did a lewd riff on Bush's name, rocker John Mellencamp called Bush a "cheap thug" and actor Chevy Chase called him "a liar." Kerry said the performers represented the "heart and soul of America."

"The other day my opponent said that a bunch of entertainers from Hollywood conveyed the heart and soul of America. I believe the heart and soul of America is found in places like Duluth, Minnesota," Bush told several thousand supporters in this city on the shores of Lake Superior.

Kerry spokesman Phil Singer derided the attack as the work of "a desperate, partisan White House."

Bush, himself on the defensive over intelligence failures in Iraq, said Kerry was a flip-flopper for voting against the Iraq funding bill approved by Congress last year after voting in favor of a congressional resolution in late 2002 that authorized the use of force against Iraq.

In Boston on Monday, Kerry said he was "proud to say" he and Edwards voted against the funding bill because "we knew the policy had to be changed" and "we needed other countries involved."

"Now listen he's entitled to his view," Bush said, "But members of Congress should not vote to send troops into battle and then vote against funding them."

The two campaigns battled over the New York fund-raising event. Bush's campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, wrote a letter to Kerry's campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, asking Kerry to release a videotape of the event so "all Americans could see for themselves what John Kerry thinks represents the 'heart and soul' of our country."

Cahill rejected the appeal with a letter of her own: "Considering that the president has failed to even come close to keeping his promise to change the tone in Washington, we find your outrage over and paparazzi-like obsession with a fund-raising event to be misplaced."

Democrats have pointed to Vice President Dick Cheney's recent expletive to Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy as an example of the Republicans trying to have it both ways.

Singer said: "The president needs to get his story straight: He says he represents values but then backs Dick Cheney's use of profanity."

`TOUGH CAMPAIGN'

In Marquette, Michigan, earlier, Bush tried to put the best light on Michigan's 6.5 percent unemployment rate, one reason he is facing a battle in the state. He called it too high but down a full point since December and said the economy across the country was improving.

"My opponents look at all this progress and somehow conclude that the sky is falling," Bush said.

Bush seemed to acknowledge his position as down in the polls, saying he was facing a "tough campaign" for re-election on Nov. 2. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll said Kerry led Bush 50 percent to 45 percent after picking Edwards as his running mate last week.

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