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Correction to This Article
A Sept. 21 article incorrectly said that President Bush banned research on certain embryonic stem cell lines. Bush decided in 2001 to allow federal funding for research on a limited number of stem cell lines.

Bush Fires Back on Iraq Criticism

President Tells N.H. Supporters That Kerry Prefers 'Stability of a Dictatorship'

By Jonathan Finer and Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 21, 2004; Page A05

DERRY, N.H., Sept. 20 -- Speaking to more than 1,000 revved-up supporters in a large gymnasium here, President Bush on Monday called Sen. John F. Kerry's morning remarks on Iraq part of his Democratic opponent's "pattern of twisting in the wind with new contradictions of his old positions."

Responding to Kerry's criticism that Bush's Iraq policy had resulted in "a chaos that has left America less secure" and the Massachusetts senator's initial vote authorizing the president to go to war, Bush told the southern New Hampshire crowd: "He's saying he prefers the stability of a dictatorship to the hope and security of democracy. I couldn't disagree more and not so long ago so did my opponent."

_____Bush Speaks in N.H._____
Transcript: President Bush spoke at a campaign rally in Derry, New Hampshire.
_____Kerry Iraq Speech_____
Video: Sen. John Kerry said that mistakes by the president in invading Iraq could lead to unending war.
Speech Transcript

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Vice President Cheney repeated the exact quote several hours later at a rally outside Columbus, Ohio. "The only thing I have to say to that is, I'm Dick Cheney, and I approve that message," Cheney said at a high school gymnasium in Grove City.

At a town meeting earlier at a metal-casting company in Cornwall, Pa., Cheney questioned how Kerry would have handled the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and suggested the senator had a pre-attack mind-set that could cause the United States to retreat under pressure from terrorist strikes at home or abroad.

The broadside edged toward, while stopping short of, the harsh criticism of Kerry that caused the vice president to have to, in his words, "clean up" his implication that electing the Democrat could foster a terrorist attack. Invoking U.S. military withdrawals from Beirut in 1983 and Mogadishu in 1993, Cheney said a weak commander in chief would mean that terrorists could "become convinced in their own minds that if they hit the United States or if they keep up the pressure long enough that we'll fold or take our toys and go home."

"That's an absolutely unacceptable outcome," said Cheney, who also mocked Kerry for "enunciating, or announcing, what I think is his ninth position on the situation with respect to war in Iraq."

The Republican attacks came amid stepped-up criticisms from the Kerry campaign over how the Iraq conflict is proceeding, timed to coincide with Bush's speech to the United Nations on Tuesday and Thursday's visit to Washington by Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

The New Hampshire event -- held in the round and preceded by a performance from a local high school marching band -- marked Bush's fifth visit this year to the state, where he defeated Al Gore by just over 7,200 votes in 2000. Its four electoral votes are considered up for grabs this year, in part because of Kerry's status as a senator from neighboring Massachusetts.

A poll published last week by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research showed Bush leading the state, which has voted Republican in six of the last eight presidential elections, 49 percent to 40 percent.

In a state in which the economy has held up relatively well during the downturn that has marked his tenure, Bush spent more time than usual on economic matters during about an hour of remarks.

Focusing on taxes, an issue that resonates here because residents pay no sales or income tax, Bush cited what he said was more than $2 trillion in spending that Kerry has committed to during the campaign. Although Kerry disputes that figure and has said he would raise taxes on only the wealthiest Americans, Bush said the senator would pay for his plans by broadly raising taxes. "You can't raise enough by raising the top two brackets," Bush said. "So there's a tax gap. That means somebody's got to fill the tax gap. That's you."

At the end of his prepared remarks, Bush returned to the subject of Iraq, where he said U.S. troops are hampered by "people there who want to stop the march to democracy."

Reciting a statement Kerry made at Drake University in Iowa in December, when he was battling Howard Dean, who opposed the Iraq war, Bush quoted Kerry as saying that "those who believe we are not safer with [Saddam Hussein's] capture don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president."

"I couldn't have said it better myself," Bush said, as the audience roared.

Paul A. Barresi, chairman of the political science department at Southern New Hampshire University, said Iraq would weigh on voters' minds here because many of the state's National Guard units have been called up. "It's a small state so everyone knows someone over there," he said.

When Bush took questions, attendees mostly offered praise or well-wishes. An exception came when a woman who began by complimenting Bush's "wonderful presentation" asked him to clarify his views on stem cell research, adding that she has two relatives with cystic fibrosis, a degenerative lung disease.

Bush, who has banned research on embryonic stem cell lines beyond those in existence when the ban took effect, said his policy "balanced good science with good ethics."

Allen is traveling with Cheney.

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