Democrats pounced on President Bush's stated doubt that the war on terror can be won, using the comment to highlight mistakes they contend the Republican has made: the war on Iraq, relations with allies, investment in homeland security.
"I don't think you can win it," Bush replied on NBC's "Today" to the question: "Can we win" the war on terror. "But I think you can create conditions so that the — those who use terror as a tool — are less acceptable in partainst terrorism.
"I decided a year ago that he cannot win the war on terror," said retired Gen. Merrill McPeak (search), a former Air Force chief of staff who supported Republican Bob Dole in 1996 and Bush in 2000 but has switched to the Democrats.
"Iraq is a much bigger mess than it needed to be if we were competent to the task at hand," said McPeak, who is featured in a Democratic ad backing Kerry.
Others echoed McPeak's comments.
Republicans pointed to a TV ad that Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (search) of South Dakota is running in his re-election campaign to claim that top Democrats don't agree with their party's line. The ad portrays Daschle, who is facing former GOP Rep. John Thune (search), as a leader able to work with the president following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
It shows Daschle hugging Bush on the floor of Congress and includes a newspaper headline that says, "Daschle: Time to unite behind troops, Bush."
A Daschle campaign official, Dan Pfeiffer, said Republicans had a flawed interpretation of the ad, which has been on the air a week in South Dakota.
In a speech in Wilmington, N.C., Kerry's vice presidential candidate, John Edwards (search), assailed Bush as a president who miscalculated a host of foreign policy decisions.
The Democrats also prepared a 15-second TV ad that criticizes Bush for pursuing a "go-it-alone war in Iraq" that found no weapons of mass destruction and has cost taxpayers "$200 billion and counting." The ad will start running Tuesday in New York City, alternating with two other ads of similar length focusing on the loss of jobs and the middle-class squeeze.
In a conference call, Sen. Joe Biden (search) of Delaware and retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark (search) criticized Bush's policies and his statement that the war on terror is unwinnable. Stronger alliances and better planning are crucial to victory, they said.
"To suggest that the war on terror can't be won is absolutely unacceptable," Biden said. "It is winnable, but you need a strategy."
Also Monday, the AFL-CIO announced that 10,000 union members will go door-to-door as the president speaks Thursday night to talk to union members in several cities about job losses, health care and retirement security.