WASHINGTON – President Bush used yet another forum to issue a thinly veiled attack against Democratic rival John Kerry (search), saying Saturday in his weekly radio address that higher taxes and new trade barriers would be "a recipe for economic disaster."
Bush never mentioned the Massachusetts senator by name, unlike new television ads that began airing Friday and several speeches over the last 10 days. But his arguments against the economic policies of what he called "some politicians in Washington" were the same ones he has repeatedly used against Kerry.
"They want to respond in old, ineffective ways," the president said. "They want to increase federal taxes, yet punishing families and small businesses is not a job-creation strategy. They want to build up trade walls, and isolate America from the rest of the world but economic isolationism would threaten the millions of good American jobs that depend on exports. These tired, old policies of tax and spend, and economic isolationism, are a recipe for economic disaster."
In recent weeks, Bush has tried to shift voters' attention away from persistent Democratic attacks on him for the nation's still-ailing jobs picture and onto his accusations that Kerry is promoting job-killing policies to raise taxes and discourage free trade.
Kerry has said he agrees with Bush's call to extend some of the recently passed tax cuts beyond next year. But Kerry would roll back the reductions for Americans earning more than $200,000 a year. That, combined with Kerry's call to extend health insurance to millions of uninsured people and reduce costs for those who already have coverage, has led Bush to say Kerry is for a $900 billion tax increase — a charge Kerry denies.
On trade, Kerry supported the North American Free Trade Agreement (search) and trade pacts with other nations. But he also said he wants to review them to make sure they are fair to America. He also would require companies to provide notice before moving jobs to other countries.
Even as Bush has implied that Kerry is an "economic isolationist," he has erected some trade barriers of his own. In March 2002, he imposed tariffs on 10 types of foreign-made steel, then set stiff import duties on a popular type of Canadian lumber.
The nation's ailing economic picture has forced Bush to walk a thin political line: recognizing the need to express sympathy with those still out of work, while projecting optimism about the economy's chances for recovery and arguing that it is his leadership that is charting a path to better times.
He did that again in his address.
"My administration ... reduced taxes on families and small businesses, we encouraged new investment and we're seeing the results," he said. "Yet, some industries and some parts of the country are still lagging behind."
Bush suggested that his re-election would ensure continued progress.
"With the right policies in Washington, we will maintain America's economic leadership, we will create more jobs, and we'll help our workers achieve a better life," he said.