With President Bush's reelection campaign set to release an attack ad tonight, Sen. John F. Kerry today refused to apologize for accusing Republican critics of being "crooked" and instead unleashed new criticism of the Bush administration on job losses.
After a luncheon at the Capitol with Senate Democrats, Kerry, a four-term senator from Massachusetts, was asked whether he would apologize, as demanded by Republicans, for telling a supporter yesterday that GOP critics were "the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen." Some Republicans have sought to portray the remark, which was picked up by a microphone at a Kerry campaign appearance, as a personal attack on President Bush.
"I have no intention whatsoever of apologizing for my remarks," Kerry told reporters as Senate Democratic leaders stood behind him. "I think the Republicans need to start talking about the real issues before the country."
Kerry said Republicans were "going to start attack ads tonight" that ignored important matters facing the nation, such as jobs, education, the environment and "making America safer." Kerry added, "They can't talk about those things, because George Bush doesn't have a record to run on. He has a record to run away from."
The comments came after Republican leaders in Congress accused Kerry of name-calling and said he should apologize.
"We're not lying when we start saying that Senator Kerry is the old-time Democrat of tax and spend," House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) told reporters.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) described Kerry as "Ted Kennedy on a South Beach diet," the Associated Press reported.
In one of the Bush campaign's latest ads, scheduled to air tonight in 18 battleground states targeted by the GOP in the November elections, an announcer accuses Kerry of wanting to pay for new government spending by raising taxes "by at least $900 billion," the AP reported. The ad also says Kerry intends to "weaken the Patriot Act used to arrest terrorists and protect America." It concludes, "John Kerry: Wrong on taxes. Wrong on defense."
Another ad, with a script read by President Bush himself, does not mention Kerry by name, but indirectly suggests Democrats are soft on terrorism. In it, Bush says, "Now we face a choice: We can go forward with confidence, resolve and hope. Or we can turn back to the dangerous illusion that terrorists are not plotting and outlaw regimes are no threat."
In his remarks at the Capitol and in a news release, Kerry also lashed out at the Bush administration's original choice for a new assistant secretary of commerce to focus on manufacturing job losses. This evening, Anthony F. Raimondo, withdrew his name from consideration for the newly created position. But before that news broke, Kerry said Raimondo had cut his own work force by 17 percent and built a new plant in China while heading a Nebraska company that makes metal buildings and grain silos.
"Bush's solution to the manufacturing crisis: create one new job," the Kerry campaign said in the news release. The release said Bush's pick for manufacturing czar "had even mentioned that the reason so many businesses are being hurt is because of the manufacturing policies put in place by George W. Bush."
The president, meanwhile, said during an appearance at an auto parts recycling business in New York that he was "concerned" about the transfer of jobs overseas, but he warned against protectionism and "trade wars" and called on Congress to make his tax cuts permanent.
"The way to deal with outsourcing is to make the United States of America a better place to do business," Bush said. He added, "Consumer prices will go up if we wall ourselves off from the rest of the world."
Bush also visited Long Island to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for a memorial to people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Before heading to the ceremony, he said the attack "hurt us economically" and that "over a million jobs were lost because of that attack."
After the groundbreaking, Bush was headed to a GOP fundraiser at a nearby hotel.
Earlier, Bush addressed the National Association of Evangelicals convention in Colorado Springs by satellite from the White House, touching on several issues important to religious conservatives, including opposition to gay marriage.
Citing his signing last November of a law "to end the brutal practice of partial-birth abortion," Bush vowed, "we will vigorously defend this law against any attempt to overturn it in the courts."
He said he would work with Congress for "a comprehensive and effective ban on human cloning" and would "defend the sanctity of marriage against activist courts and local officials who want to redefine marriage," according to a White House transcript. He reiterated his support for "a constitutional amendment to protect marriage as the union of a man and a woman."