Kerry: 'I can fight more effective war on terror'
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said on Tuesday he could fight a more effective war on terror than President Bush and vowed to help keep America safe by extending the Sept. 11 commission's work for 18 months.
Portraying himself as a viable alternative as commander in chief and seeking to erode Bush's advantage on homeland security, Kerry told a rally in Philadelphia that "the world is waiting" for the United States to lead.
"I will and I can fight a more effective war on terror than President Bush is," he declared.
On the eve of his arrival at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, where he will formally accept his party's nomination as Bush's opponent in the Nov. 2 election, Kerry said the United States "simply must act, not as partisans, but as patriots."
"We understand the threat," the decorated Navy veteran said earlier as he stood in front of the battleship Wisconsin on the Norfolk, Virginia waterfront. "We have a blueprint for action. The only thing we don't have is time. We need to do it now."
The Massachusetts senator said the commission, which found that "deep institutional failings" in the U.S. government led to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, should stay on the job for at least another 18 months to monitor progress on its recommendations.
The 10-member bipartisan commission issued its final report on Thursday. It is to formally dissolve on Aug. 26.
"If I'd been president last week, I would have immediately said to the commission, 'Yes, we're going to implement those recommendations,"' Kerry told about 1,000 supporters at the world's largest navy base.
"Leadership requires that we act decisively," he said. "Back-pedaling and going slow is something America can't afford."
Bush, who originally opposed creation of the Sept. 11 commission, said he wanted to study the report before deciding what to do but has since discussed with advisers ways to speed enactment of the panel's recommendations and could move within days.
'A GREAT DEBATE'
However, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney indicated the administration may not rush to embrace all aspects of the report. "We're at the beginning here of what should be a great debate," he said on Monday. "I don't agree with absolutely everything that's in it."
Adding to pressure on Bush was a warning by commission Chairman Thomas Kean that "time is not on our side" in heading off any other attack on U.S. soil.
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee scheduled a hearing for Friday with Kean and commission vice chairman Lee Hamilton, following up on a pledge by congressional leaders to start work on the commission's recommendations during Congress' six-week summer recess.
Bush has focused his campaign for re-election largely on the argument that he has made America safer since the Sept. 11 attacks, which killed almost 3,000 people, and has maintained an advantage in the polls over Kerry on the issue of homeland security.
One of Kerry's key aims -- and also of Democrats at the Boston convention -- is to chip away at that. Overall, Bush and Kerry are running virtually neck-and-neck in opinion polls.
A Vietnam War veteran, Kerry vowed to expand active duty U.S. military forces by 40,000, stop the Bush administration's "backdoor draft" and redirect the National Guard for homeland security, double special forces capability and reform national intelligence services.