YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) told voters from Ohio's rust belt on Tuesday that President Bush's record on job creation should be described as "mission not accomplished."
The charge came four days before the May 1 anniversary of Bush's declaration of an end to major combat operations in Iraq. The president made the announcement aboard an aircraft carrier bearing a banner that read "Mission Accomplished." Critics derided the banner and the declaration after U.S. casualties mounted.
Kerry, in the middle of a three-day bus tour of industrial states, said manufacturing jobs have not been created during a single month of Bush's presidency. Instead, he said, the economic focus of the administration has been on extending tax cuts for the wealthy.
"George Bush has been busy clearing brush, and I think we need a president who creates jobs," Kerry said, a shot at the amount of time the president spends at his Texas ranch.
Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said the 759,000 jobs created during the last seven months demonstrates that Bush's economic policy is working. He repeated the Bush campaign argument that Kerry has proposed $2 trillion in spending that would result in higher taxes for all Americans. Kerry has disputed the figure and said he would raise taxes only on Americans who make more than $200,000 a year.
Speaking to several hundred people at an outdoor rally, Kerry reminisced about the days the Youngstown Sheet and Tube (search) factory operated. It abruptly closed in 1977 — long before Bush influenced the nation's economy — but Kerry tapped into resentment in a town that has never returned to the heyday of Ohio's steel industry.
"Today all that comes off the line at Youngstown Sheet and Tube are memories, memories of a not-so-different past when steel was at the center of life in Ohio and America was still a manufacturing titan," he said. "And I am here in Youngstown this morning, I am here in Ohio today, to make it clear that I believe that manufacturing should not and must not be a part of America's distant past."
Kerry said the president wants to summarize the Bush economic plan in one word — jobs. "Instead of one word for George Bush's economic plan, I've got three words: mission not accomplished. That's the job for this country," he said.
Kerry said he can't say that if he is elected, the doors of Youngstown Sheet and Tube will reopen. But he said if the government invested in new industries and science, paid for job training and education, and fought for fair trade, the country could put all those who lost their jobs back to work.
Kerry also criticized the Bush campaign for spending heavily on negative advertising.
"All they do is attack," he said. "They've spent $70 million in the last seven weeks trying to destroy my record, my reputation. But Americans are smarter. Americans want leadership. Americans want to move forward."
Bush has spent at least $60 million through next week on television ads, some of which criticize Kerry and some of which highlight his own agenda. Kerry has spent at least $17 million on television ads in the general election, including some which accused Bush of misleading America and supporting the outsourcing of jobs.