WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Sen. John Edwards (search), answering President Bush's blistering criticism of Democrat John Kerry (search), contended Wednesday that the Republican was "completely out of touch with reality" about the Iraq war and the economy.
"He won't acknowledge the mess in Iraq. All you have to do is turn your television on," Edwards said. And, he added, "they still don't recognize that there's any problem with jobs and the economy" despite rising health care costs and record job losses.
"You can't fix these problems until you recognize there is a problem," the Democratic vice presidential nominee told a sign-waving audience in a warehouse at the Palm Beach County convention center. "They're in denial. They're in denial about everything."
Earlier, in a speech in Pennsylvania, Bush accused Kerry of waffling in his position on the war on terrorism, pushing for higher taxes, and sending mixed signals to allies and enemies.
"In the war on terror, Senator Kerry is proposing policies and doctrines that would weaken America and make the world more dangerous," Bush said. On the economy, he added, "My opponent is a tax-and-spend liberal; I'm a compassionate conservative."
Edwards responded to Bush's critical assessment of Kerry while the Massachusetts senator stayed off the campaign trail to prepare for his second debate with Bush on Friday in St. Louis.
The North Carolina senator said that after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks Bush chose to "divert the attention to Iraq" instead of "finishing the job of killing the man who masterminded the attacks," Osama bin Laden.
"These are the men who think their experience and value is so important for the American people," Edwards said.
Noting that the Bush's advisers had billed Bush's speech as a major address on foreign policy and the economy, Edwards said: "The problem is, of course, when you got the same old tired ideas, the same old false attacks, the same old tired rhetoric, there are no new ideas. There are no new plans."
The No. 2 on the Democratic ticket made a beeline for hurricane-ravaged south Florida a day after debating Vice President Dick Cheney in Cleveland. Cheney was campaigning in Tallahassee in the northern part of the state that put President Bush and him in the White House in the disputed election four years ago.
Edwards was heading to Greensboro, N.C., later Wednesday.