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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 addressing the opening session Tuesday morning of the United Nations General Assembly, President Bush gets the kind of world stage John Kerry can only dream about.

But it's a double-edged sword. Many nations at the U.N. still view the U.S. with bitterness, if not hostility, for its invasion of Iraq and the ongoing bloodshed there.

But Mr. Bush will make no apologies - and will renew his determination to stay the course in Iraq so that democracy is established there. The president will also offer a number of humanitarian initiatives intended to promote prosperity and "accelerate the march of freedom in our world."

In his radio address over the weekend, Mr. Bush said: "Never in the history of the United Nations have we faced so many opportunities to create a safer world by building a better world. For the sake of our common security,and for the sake of our common values, the international community must rise to this historic moment. And the United States is prepared to lead."

Mr. Bush will also use his speech to spotlight the softer side of his policies - including U.S. programs to combat global HIV/AIDS, improve education, fight poverty and hunger.

While in New York, Mr. Bush will also be meeting with a number of world leaders, including Prime Minister Ayad Allawi of the interim government of Iraq.

The president says he's looking forward to the meeting and planned to remind Allawi that "so long as I'm the president, we're gonna stand with the people of Iraq."

"It's in our interests that we do so," said Mr. Bush.

The president also has meetings Tuesday with the leaders of India, and Japan, as well as with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Just last week, Annan again said he thought the US-led invasion of Iraq was illegal under international law.

The president lost little time firing back at John Kerry's latest blast on administration policy in Iraq. The president portrayed Kerry as engaging in yet another series of flip-flops.

"Today my opponent continued his pattern of twisting in the wind with new contradictions of his old positions on Iraq.

"He apparently woke up this morning and has now decided no - we should not have invaded Iraq - after just last month saying he still would have voted for force, even knowing what we know today.

"Incredibly, he now believes our national security, would be stronger with Saddam Hussein in power, not in prison."

President Bush vowed that the US would "complete our mission" of rebuilding Iraq as a stable democracy.

Not a word from the president Monday about the admission by CBS News that it made a mistake in using those documents about his National Guard service.

CBS News acknowledged it could not prove the documents are authentic and "deeply regret(s)" using them.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that "finally CBS is acknowledging the crux of their story was based on information that was likely forged and came from a discredited source."

But he said there are still serious and troubling questions that need to be answered as to who was behind the documents and the effort to cast aspersions on Mr. Bush.

"It's a serious matter that should be fully looked into," said McClellan.
--Mark Knoller


Maybe it was the fact that John Kerry and President Bush were sleeping in the same city or perhaps because tension is rising with only six weeks till Election Day. For whatever reason on Monday, Kerry, his wife Teresa, and even Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe, did not hold back in their pointed rhetoric toward Bush and the Republicans.

Kerry began the day at New York University where he delivered his sharpest criticism to date of the president's handling of the war in Iraq.

"In Iraq, this administration has consistently over-promised and under-performed. This policy has been plagued by a lack of planning, by an absence of candor, arrogance and outright incompetence," said Kerry, reminiscent of Gen. Wesley Clark's unexpected labeling of Bush as "incompetent" last month at a Kerry rally in Tacoma, Washington.

Later on the "The Late Show with David Letterman," Kerry tossed out a few ad-libbed zingers about Bush and Cheney.

On the debate agreement: "Well now what's gonna happen is, well, we compromised and now George Bush is gonna sit on Dick Cheney's lap."

During the interview, Letterman posed the question, "How does anybody go about restoring America's reputation in the world? Explain that to me?. That seems unlikely."

Kerry responded, "Has he done that much damage?"

Then Monday night, DNC Chairman McAuliffe all but blamed 9/11 on Bush at a fundraiser that, incidentally, was held just around the corner from a Republican fundraiser that the president had just spoken to.

"And when the vice president of the United States of America goes out there and says 'you have to vote for us or you will have a terrorist attack,'" McAuliffe said, "George Bush and Dick Cheney were in the White House when we were attacked on September 11th.

"George Bush was told on August 6th in his intelligence briefing that we were going to be attacked by Al Qaeda, they were going to use airplanes. Did he leave his month-long vacation in Crawford, Texas? Did he call the FAA and say 'let's be on alert?'"

"So don't you dare lecture us, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, about who will keep this country safe," McAuliffe told the crowd, which erupted in applause.

At another fundraiser, Teresa Heinz Kerry brought up allegations that she's funding extremist groups through the Tides Center - allegations that have been proven to be false. It's unclear as to why she even brought the topic up during her remarks, considering the allegations are not new, but she was clearly passionate about putting her defense on the record.

"To have right wing extremists fund noxious talk through Drudge and smudge and other places, about my funding terrorists through the Tides Foundation... is very, very frightening in America today that intelligent people believe this kind of nonsense and lie. It is a lie," she insisted

"I want people to be aware of how insidious, pervasive, lying poison is out there. And I'm not afraid of them. I'll take them on if they'll tell me to my face, but they don't."

After an appearance on "Live with Regis and Kelly," Tuesday morning, Kerry heads to Florida where he'll hold his first campaign events there in two months (due to the hurricanes, he's had to cancel three trips in recent weeks). His last official campaign day in Florida was in Cape Canaveral on July 26, although he spent the afternoon of August 20 in the Fort Myers area, which had just been hit by Hurricane Charley.
--Steve Chaggaris


"This president is incapable of admitting when he's wrong," John Edwards concluded at his Raleigh town hall meeting Monday, referring to President Bush's comments at a press conference several months ago.

"He can't think of a single mistake he's made during the four years that he's been in office. You know, I have to be honest with you, I can think of about ten things I've done wrong since I got out of bed this morning," he joked in his average man, every man kind of way.

Underneath the veil of a broad smile and good humor, Edwards hammered the administration for what he and his running mate perceive as foreign policy failures. Translating recent comments by Republican Senators McCain, Lugar, and Hagel into Democratic stump speech material, Edwards said, "Great leaders in the U.S. Senate have now stepped to the plate and spoken out and said that George Bush and Dick Cheney and this administration are failing us."

"The truth is the only two people left in America who wouldn't change what they've done in Iraq are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney," he continued.

Edwards then declared the president's justifications for war were unfounded. "And now on top of all that, they tell us had they known there were no weapons of mass destruction, had they known there was no connection to al Qaeda, had they known there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11-they still would have invaded Iraq."

During the question and answer period, Edwards revealed that knowing what he knows now, he would still vote for the war resolution. Telvin Debnam, a 22-year-old student and Marine Corps reservist, asked Edwards, "We've seen President Bush is a liar. Why did you believe him and why are my friends, my brothers and sisters, dying over there? Why did you vote for [the resolution]?"

"Good question," Edwards responded. After detailing his plan to reduce the burden and the number of troops in Iraq, he continued, "I stand by my vote on the resolution, John Kerry stands by his vote on the resolution. But I did not give George Bush authority to make the mess he has made in Iraq, and neither did John Kerry."

It may have been a good question, but according to Debnam, a young Democrat and Kerry/Edwards supporter, it was not a good answer. "He avoided my question," the student later said. "I would have liked him to say anything- 'I voted because everybody else did, I voted because I felt it was right to go into Iraq, I voted because I wanted to see a regime change or that they had weapons of mass destruction.' He just said, 'I stood by my answer,' but he didn't give me one."

At his second rally of the day in Cincinnati, Edwards again spoke out strongly about Iraq, taking the opportunity to lash out against the president's criticisms of Kerry's speech on Iraq earlier in the day. "What did he have to say?" he asked the crowd. "More lies about John Kerry, that's what he had to say. No ideas about how we're going to make things better, no plan about how we're going to help our troops, no plan about how we're going to bring other countries into this effort. Same old thing."

Following the evening rally, Edwards flew north to Cleveland, where the candidate delivers an economic policy speech Tuesday, focusing on the president's record of honoring "wealth and privilege" over "work and responsibility."

To be given at Cleveland's Intercontinental Hotel, Edwards will also detail what Bush's policies have meant for Ohio and what a Kerry administration would do for the state the campaign says has fared worse than any other over the last four years.

The speech has been in the works for a week or two, according to the campaign. But with all recent election news centered on Iraq, one wonders if the timing is off. "We can walk and chew gum at the same time," one staffer noted.
--Bonney Kapp


John Kerry may have fired the first volleys in the war of words about the war in Iraq on Monday in New York. But, in what is becoming an almost daily occurrence, Vice President Cheney shot back using the Massachusetts Senator's own oratory against him. At two campaign stops in Pennsylvania and Ohio, Cheney drew a line on the Democrats and fired both barrels.

At a rally in Grove City, Ohio, a few hours after Kerry's address, the vice president told an eager and excited audience, "Today, John Kerry gave us what I think is his ninth position on the war in Iraq. He attacked the progress we're making and the policies we've implemented."

Cheney continued by echoing a sentiment his boss made earlier in the day, "Yet despite all the harsh rhetoric, Senator Kerry today endorsed many of the same goals that President Bush has pursued in Iraq for months."

This line of criticism is part of a continuing pattern for both men on the GOP ticket, but especially so for the vice president. Cheney's roll seems to be to label anything new Kerry says about Iraq as his nth position on the war and then turn the words back on the Democratic candidate.

Another favored avenue of attack involves the further characterization of Kerry as a "flip-flopper", especially in front of as a lively crowd as the vice president faced in Ohio.

"Senator Kerry also said that under his leadership, more of America's friends would speak with one voice on Iraq. That seems a little odd coming from a guy who doesn't speak with one voice himself," the Cheney cracked to riotous cheers and laughter from the large, friendly crowd.

Cheney concluded his critique of Kerry's speech by correcting the Democrat's chosen language. "Senator Kerry also said Tuesday that President Bush misled America in calling Iraq an imminent threat. The president said no such thing," he said sternly.

"Our argument was that Saddam Hussein posed a gathering threat, that in a post-9/11 world we could not wait until a threat was imminent. By then it would be too late to spare American lives. This is a profound difference between President Bush and Senator Kerry."

Cheney began the day near Harrisburg, Pa., at a town hall meeting outside a factory that made parts for the defense industry. Again he addressed his concerns over Kerry's perceived inability to take single position on the war on Iraq.

"Looking at John Kerry's record with respect to how he has attempted to deal with this issue, or not deal with it over the years, that we would not have, in a Kerry administration, the kind of firm hand on the tiller that's absolutely essential if we're going to be successful in winning the war on terror & in accomplishing our strategic objectives in the Middle East."

Even in the more light-hearted moments of the vice president's day, he often takes shots at Kerry. Before the event in the morning, the vice president was introduced by his wife Lynne who often tells a brief story about their young lives in Wyoming. But on Monday, the audience got some banter that would have made Sonny and Cher proud, at the expense of the Democrats.

"I know we're in Pennsylvania today," she opened. "The president's in New Hampshire and New York. I think John Kerry's in New York, what's he doing today?"

"I think he's explaining his position on Iraq," her husband responded

"Which one?" a member of the audience shouted, getting into the act.

"Good question, which one? And nobody knows where John Edwards is, right?" Lynne finished to guffaws and knee slaps.
--Josh Gross