Bush says Kerry suffers from 'political amnesia'

Saturday, October 23rd 2004, 11:20 am
By: News On 6

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) _ President Bush said Saturday that Sen. John Kerry must be suffering from ``election amnesia'' because he has forgotten that he once viewed Saddam Hussein as a threat to America.

After voting to authorize force against the former Iraqi leader, after calling it the right decision when the Bush administration sent troops into Iraq, Kerry now calls the conflict the ``wrong war,'' Bush said.

``Sen. Kerry seems to have forgotten all that as his position has evolved during the course of the campaign,'' Bush said at the first stop on a hectic day of campaigning in a state critical for both campaigns. ``You might call it election amnesia.''

A little more than a week before Election Day, Bush is banking on his base here to win Florida's 27 electoral votes _ equal to Ohio and Iowa combined. Marine One will fly in and out of four cities _ all in areas that voted for Bush by wide margins in 2000.

First was City of Palms Park, the training camp for the Boston Red Sox, Kerry's home team that plays Saturday night in the first game of the World Series.

As music blared from stadium loudspeakers, the presidential helicopter, carrying Bush, his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and first lady Laura Bush, landed in left field, dusting the crowd with dirt from the warning track. Bush emerged to the theme of the hit movie ``Top Gun.''

``The choice in this election could not be clearer,'' Bush said from a podium set up on second base. ``You cannot lead our nation to the decisive victory on which the security of every American family depends if you do not see the true dangers of the post-Sept. 11 world.''

The Kerry campaign says Bush's weekend trip here to fire-up supporters shows that he's no longer trying to woo independents and conservative Democrats in the state. Outside the stadium, Kerry supporters shouted ``No more years!'' and waved signs that said ``Fire the liar.''

``Bush has given up on outreach to swing voters in Florida,'' said Kerry spokesman Phil Singer, noting that all four stops are in Republican areas. Singer said voters are ``swinging away from Bush.''

Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel said Bush has made recent campaign appearances in Democratic-leaning areas of Florida and that the campaign schedule still would allow another visit to the state before Election Day.

All summer, hurricanes that slammed this critical election state restricted Bush to consoling residents and doling out federal storm aid. Bush now is making up for lost time, hoping to avoid a repeat of 2000 when he won the state by just 537 votes.

From Fort Myers and then Lakeland on the western side of the state, Bush moves to Melbourne on the east coast. His last stop before heading to his Texas ranch is in Jacksonville, situated in the heavily Republican northeast.

His competition will be close by. John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, is campaigning in Orlando and St. Petersburg, and Kerry is scheduled to spend Saturday night in Fort Lauderdale.

Also Saturday, Bush used his weekly radio address as a political tool, accusing Kerry of having a ``fundamental misunderstanding'' of the war on terror.

``Kerry was recently asked how September the 11th had changed him,'' Bush said. ``He replied `It didn't change me much at all.'''

In fact, Kerry, who made the comment during a recent interview published by The New York Times, went on to say that the attack reaffirmed his belief the nation needed to better protect itself from terrorists.

``To me, it wasn't as transformational as it was a kind of anger, a frustration and an urgency that we weren't doing the kinds of things necessary to prevent it and to deal with it,'' Kerry said.