Bush criticizes Kerry's health care plan

Tuesday, October 12th 2004, 1:03 pm
By: News On 6

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) President Bush told supporters Tuesday in the conservative heart of Colorado that John Kerry cannot pay for the domestic programs he is proposing unless taxes are raised on the middle class.

``As much as he's tried to obscure it,'' Democrat Kerry is a confirmed liberal, Bush said in a run-up to Wednesday night's final debate. The presidential debates have ``showed differences between the senator and me on issues ranging from jobs to taxes to health care to the war on terror,'' said the president, who underscored the importance that health care could play in the debate in Tempe, Ariz.

Bush said he has the answers to fix the health care system and that he won't wreck the federal budget in doing so.

He stressed the need for growth of community health centers to serve the poor and said the newly enacted legislation to revamp Medicare is helping senior citizens. He said Kerry's proposed changes would put millions of people looking for health care into ``a government program.''

``With a straight face he tried to tell Americans that ... the government has nothing to do with it,'' Bush said.

Bush's campaign rolled out two new television advertisements that make the same argument.

The Kerry campaign says Bush's criticism of the Democrat's domestic programs is based on studies that are misleading and have been shown to be factually dubious in estimating the costs.

``Over the past four years, we've seen health care in this country deteriorate into a crisis, costs have hit record levels, millions of people have lost their coverage and John Kerry has a plan to deal with those issues,'' said campaign spokesman Phil Singer. The Kerry campaign cited the senator's proposal to end tax cuts for Americans making more than $200,000 a year as a means to address the problem.

From Colorado Springs, Bush was heading to Arizona and a Republican Party fund-raiser in Paradise Valley.

Bush's campaigning Tuesday in the conservative heart of Colorado was an effort to counter Kerry's efforts to win a state that has voted Republican in nine of the past 11 presidential elections. One poll shows Bush ahead in Colorado; another shows the two men in a close race.

``Kerry is here to try to make up electoral votes he can't get in the South,'' said Colorado College political science professor Bob Loevy. ``John Kerry and the Democrats are setting a tall order for themselves by making a play for Colorado.''

In a last-minute flurry of accusations before their final debate, Kerry tried to tie Bush to record oil prices while the president charged that his Democratic opponent had misunderstood the war on terror.

On Monday, Kerry talked back to the president who has taken to calling him a tax-and-spend liberal with a 20-year Senate record of voting in favor of tax increases.

The record price of oil ``means a lot more profit for this president's friends in the oil industry. But for most middle class Americans, the Bush tax increase is a tax increase that they can't afford,'' Kerry said in New Mexico.

Bush, also campaigning in New Mexico, ridiculed Kerry for saying in an interview published Sunday in The New York Times Magazine, ``We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives but they're a nuisance.''

``I couldn't disagree more,'' the president said. ``Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance. Our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive.''

The Kerry campaign counterattacked, circulating a 2-year-old comment from Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser in the first Bush administration, who said the United States can break the back of terrorism ``so that it is a horrible nuisance, and not a paralyzing influence.''

Nationally, a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll taken Saturday and Sunday showed Bush and Kerry in a statistical dead heat, with 49 percent for the Democrat and 48 percent for Bush among likely voters. The poll's margin of error was 4 percentage points.