May 13, 2004,
In what is perhaps the Bush campaign's most pointed criticism of John Kerry to date, Bush-Cheney campaign chairman Marc Racicot says the Democratic candidate has a character defect that makes him unsuitable for the presidency.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Racicot accused Kerry of politicizing the war in Iraq and the recent prisoner-abuse scandal. "It's striking to see the ease with which John Kerry thrusts an important moment for our country into the campaign's daily spin cycle," Racicot said. But Kerry's recent statements about Iraq, Racicot continued, were part of a larger pattern.
"There is a temperament, there is a nature, there is an essence to his character and his capacity as a leader that is defective and is prone toward political opportunism," Racicot said, "because more than anything, there is this almost insatiable desire to achieve higher office at the expense of focusing upon the best interests of this nation."
Racicot spoke to reporters in response to Kerry's statements about the ongoing scandal over abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. Racicot pointed to a recent Kerry mass e-mail in which his campaign asked supporters to sign a petition calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then added a standard solicitation for contributions to the Kerry campaign.
Racicot also discussed Kerry's statement on Tuesday in which he said of the Abu Ghraib matter, "What has happened is not just something that a few, you know, privates and corporals or sergeants engaged in. This is something that comes out of an attitude about the rights of prisoners of war. It's an attitude that comes out of how we went there in the first place, an attitude that comes out of America's overall arrogance as policy."
Finally, Racicot pointed to a statement by Kerry surrogate Sen. Edward Kennedy who recently said of Iraq that, "Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management U.S. management."
"Kennedy's comments echo Kerry's own call for a 'regime change' in the United States last year," Racicot said, "and are an appalling affront to the tens of thousands of military personnel in Iraq who are taking tremendous risks and making ultimate sacrifices to honorably serve our nation."
Racicot said that Kerry has "relentlessly played politics with the war" and does not understand "that to blame the prison abuse on the president and U.S. arrogance is to blame all of America for the disgusting actions of a few."
If Racicot hoped to steer Kerry away from criticizing the administration over Iraq, he was not successful. On the same day as Racicot spoke, Kerry called the war "extraordinarily mismanaged" and "ineptly prosecuted," according to a Washington Post account, and a top Kerry aide told the Post that the president is at least partially to blame for the situation at Abu Ghraib.