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Inside Politics

Bush, Cheney press attack on Kerry remark

Kerry spokeswoman: 'Why are they so interested in attacking?'

President Bush talks with supporters Monday in a rally in Hobbs, New Mexico.
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On the campaign trail, President Bush pledges to keep fighting the war on terror.

CNN's Jeff Greenfield on strategies for a tight race.

CNN's Ed Henry on John Kerry and the coming final debate.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux on Bush-Cheney and Kerry.
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry
America Votes 2004

HOBBS, New Mexico (CNN) -- President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday continued to hammer away at a statement that Sen. John Kerry made in a lengthy article, both men insisting it's evidence the Democratic presidential nominee underestimates the threat posed by terrorism.

Cheney called Kerry's comments "naive and dangerous," while Bush said they were proof the Democrat "fundamentally misunderstands the war on terror."

In the article, a largely analytical cover story by Matt Bai in the New York Times Magazine, Kerry referred to getting "back to the place ... where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance." (Bush campaign to base ad on Kerry terror quote)

He said that, like prostitution and illegal gambling, terrorism will never go away, "but we're going to reduce it ... to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day." (Special Report: America Votes 2004)

Bush, speaking at a campaign rally in Hobbs, New Mexico, said he "couldn't disagree more" with Kerry's concept of reducing terrorism to a nuisance on the level of prostitution and illegal gambling. (President hits Western states ahead of debate)

Cheney, at a campaign stop in New Jersey, called Kerry's stance "part of a pre-9/11 mindset we cannot go back to."

Defense by Democrats

Democrats weren't slow to defend their candidate. (Kerry in Southwest to prepare for debate)

"I think you have to ask yourself, why are they so interested in attacking John Kerry?" the campaign's national chairwoman, Jeanne, Shaheen, told CNN's "American Morning."

"I think the answer is pretty clear it's because they don't want to talk about the issues that people are facing."

On the same program, Republican campaign advisor Marc Racicot suggested that Kerry's comments showed his lack of understanding about terror threats and a lack of urgency to confront them.

"When John Kerry first spoke to the issue of terrorism, you'll probably recall he said I don't like to use the word war on terrorism, it's more of an engagement," Racicot said.

Racicot's interpretation of Kerry's response was, "You wait until such time as there's damage and tragedy that visits your shores and then you investigate it like a law enforcement effort."

In the article, Kerry was asked by Bai, "what it would take for Americans to feel safe again."

The Bush-Cheney campaign released an ad highlighting Kerry's comment, and the Kerry campaign responded with one of its own, playing on the president's remarks on NBC's "Today" in August, when he said about battling terrorism, "I don't think you can win it." (Special Report: Campaign ads)

Kerry has long rejected Bush campaign assertions that he underestimates the threat of terrorism or views the battle against it as purely a law enforcement matter.

Kerry argues that law enforcement and intelligence are critical elements of the battle against terrorism.

President Bush has said as much as well.

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