Democrat John Kerry on Sunday accused President Bush of being "stunningly ineffective" at foreign policy and stuck by his argument that the war against terrorism isn't primarily a military struggle.
Kerry, in a wide-ranging interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," also stood by his promise to create 10 million jobs and halve the deficit in his first term if elected, though he conceded that soaring red ink could squeeze some proposals.
The Massachusetts senator and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee pressed his argument that Bush, the Republican incumbent, went about the Iraq war in a way that has left the United States and its troops shouldering too much of the burden. He said he would build an international alliance to share the responsibility for rebuilding Iraq.
"I think this administration has proven, frankly, stunningly ineffective in diplomacy," Kerry said, citing Bush's policy change on Israel last week. "There were Arab leaders that were taken by surprise by this announcement."
"I will immediately reach out to other nations in a very different way from this administration," he said. "Within weeks of being inaugurated I will return to the U.N. and I will rejoin the community of nations."
Kerry rejected the suggestion that he's been inconsistent on Iraq because he voted for the congressional resolution that authorized the use of force, and against $87 billion in additional funding for the war. A Bush campaign commercial currently on the air criticizes Kerry's vote against the aid package last year.
Kerry noted that Bush himself had threatened to veto the $87 billion bill if it included money to pay for health care for reservists and required Iraq to pay back some of the money set aside for its reconstruction.
"Think of that. The president threatened to veto that bill, and yet he is now accusing me for voting no," he said.
Asked whether he'd vote against another funding bill for U.S. troops in Iraq, Kerry said: "It depends entirely on what the situation is .... I'm not going to say that."
The Democrat and Vietnam War veteran said he supports the long-term goal of stability in Iraq, but warned that the public's patience may wear thin.
"If we are stuck for a long period of time in a quagmire where young Americans are dying without any sense of that (stability) being able to be achieved, I think most Americans will decide that's failure," Kerry said.
Kerry also defended his argument that the fight against terrorism is more than just a military operation.
"You need the best intelligence, the best law enforcement cooperation in the world," he said. "I will not hesitate to use those forces effectively. I think I could fight a far more effective war on terror."
Marc Racicot, chairman of Bush's re-election campaign, suggested that Kerry wasted an opportunity to explain why he voted for the use of force in Iraq but against money for the U.S. troops in harm's way.
"John Kerry went even further and instead of sending a message to the troops that we are behind them, when asked about his new support in the future, he said 'it depends upon the situation,'" Racicot said. "This conditional support for the troops that John Kerry voted to send to Iraq in the first place demonstrates a disturbing lack of judgment."
Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Kerry's appearance "was filled with inaccuracies, attacks and pessimism toward the future of the country."
Kerry campaign officials pointed to a comment by White House spokesman Scott McClellan as evidence that the administration has essentially the same position about the war being more than a military operation. McClellan recently said, "We are fighting the war on terrorism on many fronts."
Kerry's interview came as he opened a three-day campaign swing through Florida, where the disputed 2000 election was decided in favor of Bush, who won by 537 votes.
Afterward, Kerry returned to courting young voters at a rally of several thousand students at the University of Miami.
"All across America, tuition has gone up in the last three years by 28 percent" forcing thousands to abandon plans for college, he said. "I believe no American should downsize their dreams."
In a nod to local politics and the influential community of Cuban expatriates, Kerry said he remained opposed to lifting the U.S. embargo against Cuba, though he favors talks with the country and possibly encouraging travel.
Kerry held to his promise of creating 10 million jobs, drawing comparisons with former President Clinton. Kerry said Clinton pledged to create 8 million jobs when he ran in 1992, but ended up creating 11 million.
"We're now a bigger economy with more people. There's no reason we can't create 10 million jobs," Kerry said. "But you can't do it with George Bush's failed policy."
Despite the heated nature of the presidential race, Kerry agreed with Bush on a few points.
Kerry said he "completely" supported Bush's endorsement of a plan by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to hold on to lands seized in the 1967 Middle East War. Asked about Israel's assassination of Abdel Aziz Rantisi, leader of the Palestinian militant organization Hamas, Kerry echoed the White House by expressing support for Israel's efforts to be secure.
On the Net:
Kerry campaign: http://www.johnkerry.com