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Edwards bashes Bush strategy

| Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2004

Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards on Tuesday accused President Bush of bungling the war in Iraq while losing focus on the fight against international terrorism.

Speaking at Carnegie Mellon University, the North Carolina senator pledged that a White House headed by Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry would not "take our eye off the continuing threat of Osama bin Laden and the people who perpetrated 9/11."

"When John Kerry is the president of the United States, we will find these terrorists and we will crush them before they can do harm to the American people," Edwards said at a town hall meeting in Wiegand Gymnasium.

His appearance on the Oakland campus underscores the fierce competition for Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes in the Nov. 2 election. Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, used Pittsburgh as a stage to announce Edwards as his running mate at a Downtown rally in July.

Bush has made frequent visits to the region, including a stop in Allegheny County last week to survey storm damage and console flood victims.

Edwards fielded about a dozen questions during the two-hour meeting. He touched on issues ranging from rising health-care costs and declining veterans' benefits, to environmental concerns and the need for more jobs.

He threw his sharpest jabs at the Bush administration over its handling of the war.

"Iraq is a mess and it's a mess because of two people: George Bush and Dick Cheney. They told us they had a plan -- not true. They told us they had enough troops to secure the country -- not true."

Edwards renewed his charge that the Republicans are "fear-mongering" by suggesting that al-Qaida would prefer that the Democrats win.

"Let me say this in very simple language. For them to exploit one of the greatest tragedies in American history for personal gain is wrong."

U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart, R-Bradford Woods, responded for the Bush campaign, charging that Kerry and Edwards "have taken too many positions on the war on terror to count."

"Their new rhetoric of defeat and retreat is the wrong message to send to our troops, our allies and most definitely our enemies."

Hart's statement echoed a refrain from the GOP that paints Kerry as a flip-flopper on key issues. She said Kerry and Edwards "shift positions based on the headlines of the day," while Bush "has been decisive and determined" in fighting terrorism.

Edwards was joined at the event by Kristen Breitweiser, of Middletown, N.J., widow of Ron Breitweiser, who was killed when terrorists steered a hijacked plane into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Breitweiser, who has criticized Bush's response to the terrorist attacks, told the estimated 1,000 people at the meeting that "in my heart, I know we will be safer with John Kerry and John Edwards" in the White House.

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