SEATTLE – Democrat John Kerry (search) on Wednesday called on the Bush administration to do more than just warn about the threat of terrorist attacks and provide communities with enough money to protect potential targets.
"We deserve a president of the United States who doesn't make homeland security a photo opportunity and the rhetoric of a campaign," Kerry said as Attorney General John Ashcroft (search) warned that the latest intelligence showed that al-Qaida is planning another attack in the United States. "We deserve a president who makes America safer."
"The key word that we need to focus on is the word when," said the presidential candidate. "When, possibly? ... And if it's a question of when, then my question and the question of most Americans is: Why are we cutting COPS programs in the United States of America?"
Kerry, speaking at Seattle's Pier 62, also questioned why all shipping containers are not being inspected and why trains, chemical plants and nuclear facilities are not being adequately protected.
"Now, I'm not going to stand in front of you as a potential president and say to you that you can protect every single place and harden every single target in the country," Kerry said. "All Americans know better than that. What we can do is protect against catastrophe. What we can do is protect those places that are most logical places for the largest potential damage and danger. And that's the responsibility of a president."
Kerry said the federal government should be giving more resources to mayors, firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians to prevent and respond to an attack.
"I know that we have much work to do, but we deserve a president who puts America's taxpayers dollars where the need is, not just where the ideology wants it to go,"
Two Kerry supporters questioned the timing of the administration's threat report, wondering in a conference call arranged by the campaign whether the latest announcement was politically motivated.
President Bush's handling of the war on terrorism is widely considered his political strength in the election year, although the increasing violence in Iraq has cut into his advantage.
International Association of Fire Fighters president Harold Schaitberger said it is suspicious that the administration reportedly knew about these threats for more than a month but only chose to publicize them now, as Bush's approval ratings have been sinking.
"I find the reports in this press conference to be politically convenient at best," said Schaitberger, whose union has endorsed Kerry.
International Brotherhood of Police Officers President David Holway criticized the administration for "sitting on this information" instead of sharing it immediately with police.
"The timing on this is very suspect," Holway said. "We want to make sure that when this information does come out, it comes out in a timely manner."
Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, said, "President Bush has increased funding for homeland security by record levels, and John Kerry's claims to the contrary are completely false."
Kerry is on a three-day campaign swing in Oregon and Washington, two presidential battleground states that also have some of the nation's highest gas prices.