Powell and Rumsfeld rebut Kerry

PTI | ByAgence France-Presse, Washington
Aug 09, 2004 11:08 AM IST

Despite the tradition for cabinet members to stay away from stump poll battles, Powell and Rumsfeld rebut Kerry's Bush critique.

Two formally non-political members of George W. Bush's cabinet have fired a double-barreled shot in the direction of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, rebutting his criticism of the president's foreign policy and the conduct of the war in Iraq.

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Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld took on the Massachusetts senator Wednesday despite a long-standing tradition for cabinet members to stay away from stump battles waged by their boss in an election year.

While admitting that he "can't get involved in commenting on the various political slogans," Powell questioned Kerry's main campaign theme about making America "Stronger at home, respected in the world."

"We are respected," the secretary of state told Fox New Channel.

"Look, I've just come from being out in the world," he continued. "I was in Poland, where I was privileged to speak before tens of thousands of Poles on the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw uprising. They invited the American secretary of state to be there. Warmly received -- Poland is in the coalition in Iraq."

Powell also disagreed with Kerry's criticism of Bush's alleged failure to build a broad enough international coalition to ease the burden on US troops fighting in Iraq.

"Thirty-one countries, to include most of the NATO members, have put troops on the ground in Iraq," countered the nation's top diplomat without mentioning Kerry by name. "That's a fact. It's not speculation. There is a coalition there."

Meanwhile, Kerry's statement a week ago, during his acceptance speech in Boston, that frequent call-ups of national guardsmen and army reservists to serve in Iraq amounted to a backdoor draft did not sit well with Rumsfeld.

"I mean, my goodness anyone knows that anyone in the reserve is there voluntarily," the defense secretary said in a radio interview, the transcript of which was released by the Pentagon.

"There's not a single person in the reserves who didn't raise their hand, sign up and say, 'Send me, I want to joint the reserve,'" Rumsfeld said.

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