FOND DU LAC, Wis. – Responding to a bombing that struck at the heart of the new Iraqi government, President Bush mentioned the name of a Jordanian militant as a possible suspect Wednesday and said the United States will not be deterred in bringing democracy to the Middle East.
"A free Iraq is in this country's interest," the president told supporters during a two-day tour of three Midwest states that he lost in the 2000 presidential election. He vowed to "complete our mission."
In turgency leader has used. Bush spoke at a small business in Fond du Lac, Wis., during a daylong bus tour in the state which he lost by less than 6,000 votes in 2000.
Bush started the day in the Milwaukee suburbs, telling a crowd of over 5,000 supporters that his approaches to national security and the economy are working so well that rival John Kerry is trying to embrace conservatism.
"He said he was the candidate of conservative values," Bush said of Kerry's comments on a recent trip to the Midwest.
Kerry campaign spokesman Phil Singer responded that Kerry "will put an end to the George Bush policies that have weakened America's security, stretched our military thin and failed to create good, high-paying jobs."
Defending his decision to invade Iraq, Bush said, "Although we haven't found the stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we removed a declared enemy of America who had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction." Saddam Hussein "could have passed that capability to terrorists."
An hour into his tour Bush's convoy came to a halt in West Bend, Wis., where he shook hands and then bounded into Mick's Candyman. "I'm looking for a few calories," said Bush, with daughter Barbara in tow. Bush paid $5.28 for four caramel bear claws. Asked about his vow to quit sweets several months ago Bush said "well, not when your confronted with such excellent sweets."
This was the 12th trip of Bush's presidency to Wisconsin. In appearances Tuesday in Marquette, Mich., and Duluth, Minn., the president defended his decision to go to war in Iraq.
Bush roundly criticized Kerry's pronouncement that he and running mate John Edwards were proud of the fact that they opposed in the Senate the $87 billion aid package for Afghanistan and Iraq. Kerry said they had done so because "we knew the policy had to be changed."
"Members of Congress should not vote to send troops into battle and then vote against funding them, and then brag about it," Bush said during Tuesday's trip to Marquette in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and to Duluth, Minn., two Midwest states that Bush lost to Gore in 2000.
Edwards said in an interview aired Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show that he and Kerry trusted Bush to put in place a detailed plan for Iraq, but the president failed.
"My view was I had to stand up and say 'No, this is not working. We have to change course,"' Edwards said.
The president's latest Wisconsin bus tour ends in the Green Bay area, where Kerry focused on Iraq in an appearance in May, saying that his goals would be to repair relations with allies and ensure an international force for Iraq to accelerate withdrawal of U.S. troops.