Saying "a president has to be able to do more than one thing at the same time," Sen. John Kerry vowed Tuesday to protect Social Security and hunt down terrorists wherever they are.
The Democratic nominee came to this working-class corner of northeastern Pennsylvania trolling for votes in a county that gave its support four years ago to Vice President Al Gore over Texas Gov. George W. Bush, 52 percent to 43 percent.
Kerry stuck to a dual message of fiscal discipline and national security as part of his strategy to win over undecided voters with substantive policy talk in the final two weeks of the campaign. But Kerry also suggested not so subtly that President Bush does not have the brainpower to handle more than one important issue at a time.
"Compared to this president, who made significant boasts about chasing after Osama bin Laden and then only months later said, `I don't know where he is, or I don't really care and I don't think about him that much,' I will fight a tougher, smarter, more effective war on terror and we will make America safer in the world," Kerry vowed during a speech to a capacity crowd at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts.
Kerry's speech came on a day that his campaign released two new ads taking on Bush's handling of the war on terrorism and the war against Iraq. One, called "Looking," refers to "the mess in Iraq created by George Bush," with more than 1,000 deaths and kidnappings.
"Bush sees nothing wrong," says the ad, which will be run heavily in all battleground states, according to Mike McCurry, a senior adviser to the campaign.
The other ad features Kristin Breitweiser, a widow of the Sept. 11 attacks who voted for Bush four years ago. Breitweiser says Bush did not think the independent commission that investigated the attacks was necessary and then the hearings showed "we are no safer today."
Pennsylvania has the second-oldest population in the nation after Florida, and Kerry concentrated his words on Social Security and fiscal discipline.
More than 47 million Americans receive Social Security benefits, and those benefits will rise 2.7 percent next year. But much of that increase will be offset by a 17.5 percent increase in Medicare premiums.
"For 2 million seniors, their entire cost of living increase is going to be completely wiped out by the higher Medicare premiums," Kerry said. "That leaves less money for food, less money for medicine, less money for an occasional gift for a grandchild or to be able to go out and do something. That's wrong, folks."
Kerry also said that, if elected, he would ask Congress for a line-item veto to help him get control of federal spending.
"This president has never once vetoed one bill; the first president in a hundred years not to do that," he said. "Give me that line-item veto pen, and I will cut the fat out of the budget."
The Supreme Court in 1998 struck down a law that gave the president a line-item veto power. Kerry says that power can be restored in a way that passes constitutional muster.
Kerry will deliver yet another address in Iowa on Wednesday, this time a broad review of the war on terrorism.
The policy speeches are part of the Kerry strategy to provide undecided voters substantive reasons to vote for him.
Those undecided voters "have a natural reluctance to terminate the contract of the chief executive," McCurry said. "We're basically asking them to fire the president of the United States, and that's hard for many voters to do."
But he said voters believe the country is on the wrong track, and "they are more and more convinced that President Bush does not deserve to be re-elected, and they are trying to get to the point where they can see and embrace John Kerry as the next president."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times