Tue Jul 20, 4:37 PM ET
By Adam Entous
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (Reuters) - After launching two wars, President
Bush (news - web sites) said on Tuesday he wanted to be a "peace
president" and took swipes at his Democratic rivals for being lawyers
and weak on defense.
With polls showing public support for the war in Iraq (news - web
sites) in decline, the Republican president cast himself as a
reluctant warrior as he campaigned in the battleground state of Iowa
against Democrat John Kerry (news - web sites) and his running mate,
former trial lawyer John Edwards (news - web sites). Bush lost the
state in 2000 by only a few thousand votes.
"The enemy declared war on us," he told a re-election rally. "Nobody
wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president."
Bush has called himself a "war president" in leading the United States
in a battle against terrorism brought about by the Sept. 11, 2001,
attacks on America.
"I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in
foreign policy matters with war on my mind," he said in February.
Despite a surge in attacks in Iraq and U.S. warnings that al Qaeda is
plotting another major strike, Bush said U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan
(news - web sites) and Iraq had already made America safer, and that
his re-election would let him finish the job.
"For a while we were marching to war. Now we're marching to peace. ...
America is a safer place. Four more years and America will be safe and
the world will be more peaceful," Bush said.
Bush was joined by his twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, and campaign
spokesman Scott Stanzel said the twins would pair up for campaign
appearances away from their father starting Tuesday night in Missouri,
Ohio and Pennsylvania. Stanzel said the events will be closed to the
Bush and Kerry are fighting hard in Iowa, which Bush lost to Democrat
Al***(news - web sites) in 2000 by just 4,144 votes, or roughly two
votes per precinct. Recent polls give Kerry a narrow lead, but a Kerry
aide said the Iowa race and the one in Missouri remain a dead heat.
Later on Tuesday, Bush was to attend a re-election rally in Missouri,
a state he won by 3 percentage points in 2000. Underscoring its
importance to Bush, Vice President*** Cheney (news - web sites)
campaigned there on Monday.
Bush and Cheney have sought to cast Kerry and Edwards as on the side
of trial lawyers, who the president believes are responsible for a
flood of personal injury litigation that burdens the courts and is
costly to small business. Democrats get campaign contributions from
trial lawyers, while many businesses tend to favor the Republicans.
"I'm not a lawyer, you'll be happy to hear," Bush said to cheers.
"That's the other team. This is the pro-small business team."
He also lashed out at them for not backing an $87 billion funding for
the U.S. military presence in Iraq and the country's reconstruction.
The two Democrats have said they opposed the funding in opposition to
Bush's Iraq policy.
Bush campaign officials say they were increasingly upbeat about their
chances in Missouri after Kerry reduced his ad spending there ahead of
the Democratic presidential convention.
But the Kerry campaign said they were not ceding any ground, only
conserving resources for later and pouring ad money into other hotly
"Missouri is a very competitive state and we're going to fight for
every vote," said Kerry campaign spokesman Phil Singer.
The two-state swing was part of a weeklong offensive by Bush before
the Democratic National Convention in Boston starting July 26.
(Additional reporting by Caren Bohan)