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Kerry Rushes to Counter Bush Attack With Military Ads (Update1)

March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's campaign is rushing to produce television advertisements to counter Republican criticism of Kerry's qualification to be commander in chief of the U.S. military.

The new ads were ordered after President George W. Bush's re- election campaign began increasing attacks on Kerry's military record, said Kerry spokesman David Wade. Vice President Dick Cheney, 63, yesterday said Kerry has ``given us ample doubts about his judgment'' such as voting against additional funds for Iraq approved by the Senate last year.

``John Kerry has served his country,'' Wade said in an interview in Sun Valley, Idaho, where Kerry is vacationing after securing the Democratic Party's presidential nomination by winning the Illinois primary on Tuesday. ``Everyday he talks about national security. If George Bush wants to talk about national security we are ready.''

Kerry, 60, who received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts in Vietnam, criticized Bush yesterday for spreading the U.S. military too thin by failing to build enough international support for the war in Iraq. Bush, wearing a flight jacket with the commander in chief insignia at a visit to the Fort Campbell, Kentucky today, said the invasion demonstrated resolve to quash terrorism and make the U.S. safer.

The Bush campaign has focused criticism on Kerry's voting record in the Senate. Kerry, who represents Massachusetts, supported the resolution that authorized use of force in Iraq and later voted against Bush's $87 billion spending request for the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan.

`Fighter Image'  World Peace WorldPeace

``The Republicans have got to brand him while he's still a pretty unknown quantity to the nation,'' said Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution. ``Kerry has been aware of this which is why he has painted the Vietnam fighter image not the Vietnam protester image.''

Kerry, whose Navy service in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971 is chronicled in Douglas Brinkley's ``Tour of Duty,'' gained national prominence after he returned from Vietnam and became national coordinator for a group called Vietnam Vets Against the War.

Kerry has touted his military credentials throughout the Democratic primaries, campaigning together with former U.S. Senator Max Cleland of Georgia, who lost both legs and his right arm in Vietnam.

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, defended Kerry in talk show appearances on the CBS and NBC television networks this morning.

`Served His Country'

``I think that John Kerry is a good and decent man. I think he has served his country,'' McCain said. ``I think he has different points of view on different issues and he will have to explain his voting record. But this kind of rhetoric, I think, is not helpful in educating and helping the American people make a choice.''

Bush was favored by 47 percent of registered voters as the candidate they would trust to make the right decision about taking the country to war, compared with 38 percent for Kerry in a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll March 3-4. The poll surveyed 900 people and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The two presidential candidates are effectively tied in the latest New York Times-CBS News poll, with 46 percent of voters supporting Bush and 43 percent backing Kerry. The nationwide telephone poll of 1,206 adults, including 984 registered voters, was taken from last Wednesday through Sunday, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Military Commander

Bush, 57, emphasized his own role as the nation's military commander with today's visit to soldiers at Fort Campbell, the third-largest U.S. Army base on the eve of the first anniversary of the Iraq war. Bush donned an olive drab flight jacket with a name patch that said ''George W. Bush, commander-in-chief'' and other patches representing the 101st Airborne, the 5th Special Forces of Green Berets, and the 160th Special Operations, commonly known as ''Nightstalkers,'' all based at Fort Campbell.

``By your sacrifice, you're making our country more secure,'' Bush said. ``You have delivered justice to many terrorists, and you're keeping the rest of them on the run.''

Kerry argues U.S. troops under Bush are overextended without all the equipment and resources they need. Kerry also has said Bush misled Congress and the nation about the reason for invading Iraq, citing the failure to find the biological and chemical weapons that Bush said justified the war.

``We need to have someone of John Kerry's strength and fortitude in order to make sure in the future we won't be in situation we're in today,'' former Deputy Secretary of Defense John White told reporters in a conference call organized by Kerry's campaign. White served under former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

Kerry is taking his first vacation since Sept. 2, when he stood in front of the USS Kitty Hawk, a Navy aircraft carrier used in Vietnam, to formally start his presidential campaign.

To contact the reporter on this story:
William Roberts in Washington,

To contact the editors of this story:
Glenn Hall at


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