WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Democrat John Kerry (search) said Monday that President Bush sent troops into war without necessary equipment and accused the commander in chief of "arrogant boasting that he's done everything right in Iraq."
"Mr. President, your management or mismanagement of this war, your diversion from Al Qaeda (search) and from Usama bin Laden (search), your shift of the troops to Iraq when there was nothing to do with Al Qaeda, nothing to do with 9/11, has made America less safe, not more secure," Kerry said.
The Democrat's campaign also rolled out a TV ad showing Bush saying "I truly am not that concerned about him" — a reference to Usama bin Laden. The ad seeks to make the case that "It's time for a new direction" on Iraq and the war on terror. Bush denied in the final debate that he had ever said he wasn't worried about Usama.
As for U.S. forces, Kerry referred to a report in The Washington Post that the U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez (search), said last winter that his supply situation was so poor that it threatened the troops' ability to fight.
"Despite the president's arrogant boasting that he's done everything right in Iraq and that he's made no mistakes, the truth is beginning to come out and it's beginning to catch up with him," Kerry said.
"I will never be a commander in chief who just cavalierly, ideologically and arrogantly dismisses the advice of our best military commanders in the United States."
Kerry made his remarks the same day that the president planned a major terrorism speech and signed the homeland security spending bill into law.
"John Kerry is a politician who is declining in the polls, who is grasping at issues, who voted against money for Iraq and Afghanistan," said Bush-Cheney spokesman Steve Schmidt. "John Kerry has demonstrated his ability to say anything at anytime to anyone if it benefits him politically."
As he often does when talking about Iraq, Kerry highlighted statements critical of the Bush administration made by prominent Republicans, including Sen. Dick Lugar (search) of Indiana. Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday that Kerry takes his words out of context on the campaign trail.
Lugar commented last month about the small amount of money spent on reconstruction and said, "This is the incompetence in the administration." He said Sunday that he believed Bush agreed with the need to increase reconstruction spending to create jobs for Iraqi citizens.
"It does infuriate all of my friends, and they wish that somehow or other I could seize Senator Kerry and tell him, 'Don't do it,"' Lugar said.
Kerry communications director Stephanie Cutter said Monday, "Senator Lugar said that the administration's handling of the Iraqi reconstruction has been incompetent. That is a very clear and very accurate statement of Bush's failure to plan for the war, and hard to see what has been taken out of context."
Kerry was in Florida urging voters to take advantage of laws that let residents cast their ballots for the Nov. 2 election beginning Monday.
He said an early vote would help prevent a repeat of the nail-biting finish of 2000 that saw the election decided in a Florida recount
"This is important. If you vote early now, we don't have to stay up late on Tuesday night, Nov. 2," Kerry said. "I want you to get out and get the job done."
Florida, the 2000 battleground that decided the election by 537 votes, remains close this year. President Bush planned a campaign trip Monday as well.
In polls taken after the first presidential debate, one showed Bush ahead and others showed the candidates running neck-and-neck in the state, which offers 27 electoral votes.
Kerry also laid out a prescription for avoiding another flu vaccine shortage like the one this season.
He wants manufacturers to report vaccine supplies to public health officials, encourage the donation and public buyback of surplus vaccines, establish a reserve of the inoculations and encourage more drug makers to produce the vaccine.