WASHINGTON – John Kerry (search), at the site where President Bush described Iraq as a threat to the United States, was arguing the president left a trail of broken promises on the path to war and squandered money that could be put to better use at home.
"George W. Bush's wrong choices have led America in the wrong direction on Iraq and left America without the resources we need here at home," the Democratic presidential candidate said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday. "I would not have made the wrong choices that are forcing us to pay nearly the entire cost of this war — more than $200 billion that we're not investing in education, health care and job creation here at home."
The speech showed Kerry shifting from a defensive stance, fending off charges of inconsistencies on the war, to an aggressive challenge of Bush's decisions in the run-up and aftermath of war.
Linking the choice to go to war with its budgetary consequences, Kerry sought to tie Iraq to health care, education, jobs and other areas where Kerry says the administration followed a misguided path.
"While we've spent that $200 billion in Iraq, 8 million Americans are looking for work — 2 million more than when George W. Bush took office — and we're told that we can't afford to invest in job training and job creation here at home," Kerry said.
"He doesn't believe that America can be strong in the world while we also make progress here at home. He believes we have to choose one or he other. That's a false choice, and I reject it."
In a speech at the Cincinnati Museum Center (search) in 2002, Bush made a case for removing Saddam Hussein from power. He called the Iraqi leader a "murderous tyrant" who may be plotting to attack the United States with biological and chemical weapons.
The address opened debate in Congress that eventually led to a vote authorizing the president to use force against Iraq, a resolution that Kerry supported.
U.S. military deaths in the Iraq campaign passed 1,000 on Tuesday.
The Kerry campaign said Bush's argument for war was laced with assertions later ignored or proved untrue.
Bush said he would pursue diplomatic solutions in Iraq; Kerry says he rushed to war. Bush said he would build a coalition of allies; Kerry says the United States bears virtually all the war's cost, in lives lost and dollars spent.
Bush said Iraq was developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, but U.S. forces never found stockpiled weapons of mass destruction. Bush said Iraq supported al-Qaida's designs against the United States, but the Sept. 11 commission found no active collaboration between them.
"His miscalculation was going to war without taking every precaution and without giving the inspectors time," the Massachusetts senator said. "His miscalculation was going to war without planning carefully and without the allies we should have had."
Steve Schmidt, spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, noted that Kerry voted to authorize the use of force and said the speech is "consistent with his position that he is proud of voting against $87 billion in funding for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan."
In conjunction with the speech, Kerry was unveiling an ad that accuses Bush of squandering $200 billion on Iraq while the United States suffers with "lost jobs" and "rising health care costs." The commercial claims, "George Bush's wrong choices have weakened us here at home."