Following are remarks by President Bush on the independent campaign being waged against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry as well as independent campaigns in general.
Press Conference in Crawford, Texas, Aug. 23
Q Some of your supporters are refighting the Vietnam War with their comments about Kerry's war record. Do you think that these attacks of this nature are unpatriotic, un-American, seeing as we're sending young people to war at this time?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think we ought to be debating who best to be leading this country in the war against terror. And that's what I'll continue to try to convince the American people of, is that I'm the right person to continue to lead the country in the war on terror. I think we ought to be looking forward, not backward. And that's the kind of campaign I'll continue to run.
Q But why won't you denounce the charges that your supporters are making against Kerry?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm denouncing all the stuff being on TV of the 527s. That's what I've said. I said this kind of unregulated soft money is wrong for the process. And I asked Senator Kerry to join me in getting rid of all that kind of soft money, not only on TV, but used for other purposes, as well. I, frankly, thought we'd gotten rid of that when I signed the McCain-Feingold bill. I thought we were going to, once and for all, get rid of a system where people could just pour tons of money in and not be held to account for the advertising. And so I'm disappointed with all those kinds of ads.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. This doesn't have anything to do with other 527 ads. You've been accused of mounting a smear campaign. Do you think Senator Kerry lied about his war record?
THE PRESIDENT: I think Senator Kerry served admirably, and he ought to be -- he ought to be proud of his record. But the question is, who best to lead the country in the war on terror; who can handle the responsibilities of the Commander-in-Chief; who's got a clear vision of the risks that the country faces.
Q Mr. President, some Republicans, such as Bob Dole and some Republican donors such as --
THE PRESIDENT: What paper are you with?
Q I'm with Bloomberg.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. First time I've seen you ought here. Welcome.
Q Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: No problem. Did you write the story about the Vice President? (Laughter.) Yes, go ahead.
Q That's okay. Some Republicans such as Bob Dole and some Republican donors such as Bob Perry have contributed and endorsed the message of these 527 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads --
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q Do you -- when you say that you want to stop all --
THE PRESIDENT: All of them.
Q Does that mean --
THE PRESIDENT: That means that ad, every other ad.
Q Would you encourage Republicans not to give to --
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. I don't think we ought to have 527s. I can't be more plain about it. And I wish -- I hope my opponent joins me in saying, condemning these activities of the 527s. It's the -- I think they're bad for the system. That's why I signed the bill, McCain-Feingold. I've been disappointed that for the first six months of this year, 527s were just pouring tons of money, billionaires writing checks. And I spoke out against them early. I tried to get others to speak out against them, as well. And I just don't -- I think they're bad for the system.