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Trail Bytes

As the presidential race heads into the home stretch, CBS News reporters are out on the road traveling with the Bush-Cheney and Kerry-Edwards campaigns.

Read their dispatches and keep up with the latest campaign news in Trail Bytes, updated daily on


In neither of his two campaign speeches Thursday did President Bush make any mention of the new questions about his service in the National Guard.

Nor were reporters given a chance to ask him about it.

The strategy for Mr. Bush was to stay decidedly "on message." And that he did, ridiculing John Kerry for his policies on the economy and on Iraq.

It fell to White House spokesman Scott McClellan to handle the Guard matter.

He called the latest round of charges a coordinated attack by Kerry and his surrogates. McClellan said its the "same old recycled attacks" that come up every time Mr. Bush runs for office.

Papers from the files of the late Lt. Col. Jerry Killian - one of Mr. Bush's commanders in the Texas Air National Guard - clearly show that Killian did not think that then-Lt. Bush satisfactorily completed his military obligations. He suspended Mr. Bush from flight duty for failing to submit to a required physical.

The bottom line defense by the White House is that Mr. Bush would not have been honorably discharged if he hadn't completed his obligations.

Thursday, the son of the officer who reportedly wrote the memos says he doubts they're authentic.

But Mr. Bush will definitely make reference to his military service when he addresses the National Convention of the National Guard Association of the United States. That's next Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Blast Kerry on the Economy

The president was firing back yesterday at the Kerry campaign's near daily attacks on his economic policies.

At a speech in Colmar, Pa., Mr. Bush said it's his rival who poses a threat
to the economy.

"He wants to give more power to Washington by raising taxes and spending more money," said Mr. Bush.

He portrayed Kerry as a serial tax-raiser. "If you drive a car, Sen. Kerry's voted for higher taxes on you. If you have a job, he's voted for higher taxes on you. If you're married or have children, he voted for higher taxes on you."

And the president argued that his policies, including two rounds of tax cuts, have served to strengthen the economy and create new jobs.

"Our country has seen twelve straight months of job gains," he said. "Over the past year we've added 1.7 million jobs. That is more than Germany, Japan, Great Britain, Canada and France combined," said Mr. Bush.

Again, Mr. Bush made no mention of the record-size deficits run up on his watch.

Back on the Bus

They don't need the presidential limo again today as Mr. Bush goes back on his big, armored red-white-and-blue campaign bus for another swing through West Virginia and Ohio. It's his 11th bus trip this year and it targets two states Mr. Bush won in 2000 and must keep in his win column in November.

He's got rallies in Huntington, West Virginia and in Portsmouth and Chillicothe, Ohio.

Tomorrow, Mr. Bush marks the 3rd anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, leading the White House staff in observing a moment of silence on the South Lawn at 8:46 a.m., the time the first of the hijacked aircraft struck the World Trade Center.
--Mark Knoller


Kerry spent Thursday afternoon focused on African-American issues as Rev. Jesse Jackson joined him on his campaign plane for the flight from Des Moines, Iowa ,to New Orleans.

They both traveled to the Big Easy to address the National Baptist Convention, which according to the convention's Web site, broke with tradition by only inviting Kerry - and not President Bush - to speak.

Kerry took the opportunity to unload on Bush, and he even employed a scare tactic by implying civil rights and affirmative action are in serious trouble if Bush is re-elected.

"George W. Bush has told you that Justices (Antonin) Scalia and (Clarence) Thomas are the kind of judges he will put on the Supreme Court," declared Kerry.

"We have fought too hard and come too far to let George Bush roll back generations of progress. John Edwards and I know that the whole future of civil rights and affirmative action may hinge on a single Supreme Court vote."

About halfway through the passionate 38-minute speech, Kerry indicated he had chatted earlier with former President Clinton, who is still recovering from heart bypass surgery in a New York City hospital.

Kerry told the crowd that Clinton asked him "to say hello to all of you and extend his best to you and to tell you together we can make this happen."

Campaign spokesman David Wade said that Kerry called Clinton just before the speech to see how the former president was doing and the two "chatted for a couple of minutes."

Throughout his remarks, Kerry also regularly alluded to events sensitive to African-Americans to make his points: lynchings, Jim Crow, "separate but unequal" schools and the voting problems in Florida in 2000.

Ultimately, using a Bible reference, Kerry tried to convince the audience that Bush doesn't care about African-Americans.

"I also know that George Bush has asked the question, 'Does the Democratic Party take African American voters for granted?' Well, here is my answer. The Book of Matthew reminds us, 'Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing,'" Kerry said

"The president who in the last four years couldn't even find the time to meet with the NAACP, couldn't even find the time to meet with the Black Caucus, couldn't find the time to meet with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. The president who turns away from African American needs… who scorns economic justice and affirmative action, who traffics in the politics of division – and then claims he is a friend of Black America cannot conceal his identity no matter what clothes he wears."
--Steve Chaggaris


At a Nashua, N.H., town hall meeting, John Edwards took issue for the third day in a row with Cheney's "wrong choice" means "we'll get hit again" by terrorists statement.

"This statement by Dick Cheney is dishonorable and undignified and was calculated to divide the American people, and it's wrong and the president of the United States should say that it's wrong," he said to about 800 New Hampshire supporters.

Cheney's attempt to "clean up" his remarks in an interview with Friday's Cincinnati Enquirer isn't enough according for Edwards' campaign. In a response to the article, press secretary Mark Kornblau wrote, "We all saw Dick Cheney's remark, and we all understood the disgraceful and dishonorable implications. How about instead of more spin we actually get the truth from Dick Cheney, or an apology? Is that so hard?"

In the meantime, it's safe to expect Edwards to continue with his anti-Dick Cheney repertoire, which he developed Wednesday in New Hampshire and later in Washington, D.C. "And by the way, while I'm on the subject of Dick Cheney, let me say a couple other things," Edwards joked to a roomful of donors at a $200,000 fundraiser in a Washington hotel Thursday evening.

Blasting Halliburton, Edwards was sure to tie in the vice president to the company whose name is a dirty word to most Democrats. "We're talking about a company that is doing business with the American people, funded by taxpayers-Dick Cheney's company, the company from whom he still receives money."

Next up in Edwards' Cheney riff was the allegation that the vice president met with energy industry lobbyists "behind closed doors" to set American energy policy. After the D.C. crowd gave an adequate boo, the senator reassured, "One thing I can tell you, and you can take this to the bank, when John Kerry is your president and me as your vice president, we're going to give the White House back to the American people."

Edwards' grand finale was a late addition to include what the vice president said about the online auction Web site, E-bay, earlier in the day at an Ohio campaign stop. Paraphrasing Cheney, Edwards mocked, "'Well, wait a minute, the economy's actually doing better than most people in the country are aware of, because there are a lot of people selling things on E-bay.'" He continued, "I'm here to tell you, if we include the lemonade stands and the bake sales, this economy's roaring. What in creation are these people talking about? I mean, they obviously have no idea what's happening out here in the real world."

Edwards will attend the Congressional Black Caucus' 34th annual Legislative Conference Prayer Breakfast on Saturday, September 11th, before beginning another week of campaigning Sunday.
--Bonney Kapp


On Thursday, Vice President Cheney looked to blunt some of the furor caused by the "wrong choice" comments he made earlier in the week as he returned to the campaign trail in two swing states.

In Des Moines on Tuesday, Mr. Cheney told members of a town hall meeting that they had a crucial decision to make on Election Day. "It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2nd, we make the right choice," he stated. "Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again."

The comments, which were part of a larger discussion about the differences between the Kerry/Edwards and Bush/Cheney tickets' mindsets on terrorism, caused an uproar across the country. John Edwards labeled them scare tactics and "un-American," and newspapers and cable news ran the sound bite and subsequent political commentary throughout the week.

Campaign spokespersons and Republican supporters were quick to point out that sentence was taken out of context, but it did little to smooth the turbulence. But the vice president had an opportunity to address the situation personally when he met with the editorial board of the Cincinnati Enquirer on Thursday after a campaign stop in Ohio.

Echoing the response of campaign officials earlier in the week, he told the paper, "I did not say if Kerry is elected we will be hit by a terrorist attack."

"Whoever is elected president has to anticipate more attacks. My point was the question before us: Will we have the most effective policy in place to deal with that threat? George Bush will pursue a more effective policy than John Kerry," he finished.

It remains to be seen if this response will defuse the situation or if the comments become part of the political dialogue throughout the election season.

Before meeting with the Enquirer, the vice president conducted a town hall meeting in Cincinnati where his opening remarks were more focused and direct than the ones in Des Moines, in a successful attempt to avoid the verbal slip-up that haunted the campaign this week.

Before the convention, Mr. Cheney always opened his remarks with the war on terrorism. But since leaving New York, he has lead off with the economy, crediting the tax cuts for any positive moves. When it's time to open the floor to questions, the audience follows the lead and asks questions in suit.

And if there is to be a controversy over some of the comments on Thursday it will be the result of a question put forward by a small business owner asking about the unemployment numbers.
--Josh Gross