ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE – President Bush on Monday accused Democratic rival Sen. John Kerry (search) of "shameless scare tactics" by suggesting that the president would jeopardize Social Security for older Americans and bring back the military draft for young people.
Bush, in an Associated Press interview, said of Kerry, "He's trying to scare our seniors. It is wrong to try to scare people going into the polls."
The Republican incumbent said Kerry's charges were just "old-style politics."
Kerry said Sunday that Bush was planning a "January surprise" attempt to privatize Social Security if re-elected. As for reviving the draft to replenish U.S. forces in Iraq, the Democrat told The Des Moines Register last week that, "With George Bush, the plan for Iraq is more of the same and the great potential of a draft."
"One of the things that we obviously are being confronted with are shameless scare tactics," Bush told the AP. "My opponent has said to youngsters that if George W. is elected there will be a draft."
The president pointed out that he said during the debate that he will not revive the military draft.
Bush said it was inappropriate for Kerry to mention in the final debate that Mary Cheney, daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney (search), is a lesbian in response to a question on whether homosexuality is a choice.
"I thought it was over the line," the president said.
The commander in chief declined to comment on the controversy surrounding a National Guard unit from South Carolina that refused to follow orders in Iraq, calling it a "lone example" and he has decided to "let the military look at the incident."
The Army announced last week that it was investigating up to 19 members of a platoon from the 343rd Quartermaster Company, based in Rock Hill, S.C., after they refused to transport supplies from Tallil air base near Nasiriyah to a location north of Baghdad.
Three months before Iraq holds its first free election, Bush said the United States would have to live with whatever the outcome is. Asked if the people of Iraq choose an Islamic fundamental government someday, Bush said, "I would be disappointed but democracy is democracy. If that's what the people choose, that's what the people choose."
Bush said the United States will remain "on alert" about the possibility of a terrorist strike on U.S. soil before the election, but said, "we have no specific threat information on that. Otherwise, we would have let people know."
"The United States and other countries have been concerned about the possibility of an election-related terrorist strike ever since the Madrid bombings," said the president, who added that he had taken part in a National Security Council meeting earlier in the day to talk about threat information.
Last March, 191 people in Madrid were killed in terrorist bombings just three days before Spain's elections.
In the AP interview, the president also said he hoped that that there would not be a repeat of the Electoral College mess four years ago that required a long recount and a decision by the Supreme Court before the winner of the race was decided. Laughing, he said, "I hope not," when asked about the possibility of another impasse.
The Republican said he was trying to turn out as many voters as possible to prevent that occurrence.
With a little more than two weeks to the election, Bush was campaigning in New Jersey, a reliably Democratic state that was hit hard when terrorists struck the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Campaigning in Marlton, N.J., Bush accused Kerry of having a pre-Sept. 11 view of the world, a mind-set that he called dangerous. Kerry's approach to terrorism would permit a response "only after America is hit," he said.
"This kind of Sept. 10 attitude is no way to protect our country," Bush said, echoing many lines from his debate appearances and campaign speeches.
He called the Clinton administration's approach to terrorism "piecemeal and symbolic." Terrorists saw this as a weakness and most Americans still felt then that the threat from terrorists was something distant. "That is a time that my opponent wants to go back to ... a time when we still thought terrorism was only a nuisance," Bush said.
The Bush campaign unveiled a new TV ad that sought to portray Kerry as weak on terrorism — "either we fight terrorists abroad or face them here" — and accuses the Democrat of opposing President Reagan "as he won the Cold War."
Nearly 700 New Jersey residents died when hijacked airplanes flew into the World Trade Center's twin towers, and polls show national security and terrorism are the top campaign issues among voters in the state.
Democrat Al Gore easily won New Jersey in 2000, but voters' worry about another terrorist attack is a key reason why Bush and Kerry are locked in a tight race for the state's 15 electoral votes.
Kerry adviser Joe Lockhart says New Jersey is an interesting place for the president to campaign because its two senators and former Gov. Thomas Kean, chairman of the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission, have complained that Bush hasn't done enough to push the panel's recommendations into law.
Before leaving for New Jersey, Bush signed a bill giving the Department of Homeland Security about $33 billion for the budget year that began Oct. 1. The tab was nearly $900 million more than Bush requested of Congress.