DAYTON - Introduced as "the man who will continue to keep our country safe and who holds our future in his hands," President Bush yesterday blasted John Kerry as a wavering candidate who "has taken a lot of different positions, but he rarely takes a stand."
Mr. Bush said over the last four years, he has been reminded that the world looks to the United States for leadership.
"It is crucial for the American president to be consistent. I have learned the American president must base decisions on principle - core convictions on which he should never waver. The issues vary, the challenges are different every day; tactics and strategy must be flexible. But a president's conviction must be steady and true," Mr. Bush said in a speech to about 5,000 people at a sports arena.
The crowd often chanted "flip-flop" as Mr. Bush slammed Mr. Kerry's 20-year record in the U.S. Senate and his comments along the campaign trail.
Mr. Bush accused Mr. Kerry of trying to obscure his voting record on national security. The President said Mr. Kerry proposed canceling "critical defense weapons systems" in the 1980s at the height of the Cold War, and voted against authorizing Mr. Bush's father in 1991 to use force to liberate Kuwait after Iraq invaded. "History has shown that Senator Kerry was wrong and President Ronald Reagan was right. History has shown that Senator Kerry was wrong and former President Bush was right," Mr. Bush said.
The President charged that Mr. Kerry has changed his positions on the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the war in Iraq.
"The senator's willingness to trade principle for convenience makes it clear John Kerry is the wrong man for the wrong job at the wrong time," Mr. Bush said.
Brendon Cull, a spokesman for the Democratic campaign in Ohio, said Mr. Kerry "stands for creating jobs in this state. He stands for having a health-care plan that insures Americans. He stands for better education. He stands for helping the middle class and he stands for fighting a stronger war on terror and winning the peace in Iraq.
"George Bush for the past four years has been standing for some things such as tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and sweetheart deals for his corporate friends. He has stood for an administration that has ignored and disrespected the middle class in the state of Ohio," Mr. Cull added.
U.S. Sen. George Voinovich praised Mr. Bush's decision to impose steel tariffs in March, 2002 - which were lifted by the President last year after the World Trade Organization ruled they violated trade rules.
"It was President Bush, not Clinton, who helped save American steel jobs. If not for the President, thousands of steel workers would not be working," Mr. Voinovich said.
Lisa Hayes, 44, said she believes Mr. Bush will carry Ohio and win the election by a comfortable margin.
"He's truthful. He's specific. He's a man on a mission," said Ms. Hayes, a Dayton resident who owns a mortgage company.
Later in the day, Mr. Bush appeared at a rally in a giant field at a recreation center in Westlake, just west of Cleveland, with more than a dozen retired top-ranking officers of various branches of the armed forces.
Touting their endorsement of his leadership in the war on terror and the war in Iraq, he emphasized the need to be steadfast and consistent when leading the free world.
More than 25,000 came out for the rally, held under an unusually warm October sun. Many lounged with their families on a large, grassy knoll that overlooked the stage, where the President outlined unofficial qualifications for the presidency.
"As presidents from Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan so clearly demonstrated, a president cannot blow in the wind. A president must make tough decisions, and stand by them.
"That is how I have led our country, and that is how I will continue to lead our country for four more years,'' he said. "A president cannot follow the path of the latest polls. A president must lead based on conviction and conscience, especially in a time of war. Mixed signals only confuse our friends and embolden our enemies. Mixed signals are the wrong signals for a president to send.''
Mr. Bush's Westlake rally was the third of the day, which started in Saginaw, Mich., and ended with a rally in a Philadelphia suburb.
Blade political writer Fritz Wenzel contributed to this report.
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