Kerry takes his boat into battle

By Mark Follman
Published September 24, 2004 8:57PM (EDT)

John Kerry caught a cold earlier this week, but his campaign has also caught some fire. On Wednesday, the Dems wasted no time in ripping the Bush camp for a "juvenile" new TV ad that took a cheap shot at Kerry's windsurfing hobby while ignoring the spiraling chaos in Iraq. And the bolder, more nimble Kerry campaign is in assault mode again today with another quick counterpunch intended to show that President Bushs rhetoric on Iraq is as vaporous as a desert mirage. Its new TV spot blasts Bush for the tone and message of his Thursday press conference alongside interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, during which Bush played off of some recent "right track/wrong track" polling that showed better popular sentiment in war-torn Iraq than in the U.S.

"The right track? Americans are being kidnapped, held hostage, even beheaded," the new Kerry ad says. "Over a thousand American soldiers have died. And George Bush has no plan to get us out of Iraq."

Meanwhile, at a speech at Temple University in Philadelphia today, Kerry outlined a detailed strategy for fighting global terrorism. He pledged to build a better military and intelligence apparatus to go after enemies, deny terrorists weapons and financing, move against worldwide terrorist havens and recruitment centers, and promote freedom and democracy in Muslim nations.

He also continued to hammer home that President Bush has indeed taken the wrong track on national security. "George Bush made Saddam Hussein the priority. I would have made Osama bin Laden the priority," Kerry said. "I will finish the job in Iraq and I will refocus our energies on the real war on terror."

The follow-through from the quicker, more muscular Democratic operation should come as something of a relief to supporters who worried that Kerry had been MIA for far too long on the critical issues of national security and the war. As the Boston Globe notes today, should Kerry indeed be victorious just over five weeks from now, this week may prove to have been a critical turning point in his campaign.

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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