WASHINGTON -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), continuing his sharp attacks on the man who beat him in last year's White House race, on Thursday denounced President Bush's budget and his recent nominations of leading conservatives to two high-profile foreign policy posts.
The budget Bush submitted to Congress failed to uphold basic values of "honesty, opportunity and responsibility," Kerry told the Center on National Policy, a Democratic think tank.
In response to a question, Kerry charged that Bush's nomination of Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank would undermine the administration's efforts to rebuild ties with allies frayed by strains over the war in Iraq.
"Here are two people who come to the jobs quite dismissive of the very fundamental purposes and engagements that those entities have been involved in, and it will be felt in the rest of the diplomacy of this administration," Kerry said.
Kerry's tough words were the latest example of his rapid reemergence as a leading critic of Bush after the presidential contest.
After the 2000 race, Democratic nominee Al Gore did not deliver a speech criticizing Bush until more than a year after his rival's inauguration. Kerry, who has signaled he's considering a second presidential bid in 2008, has been assailing Bush's agenda almost from the moment the president took his hand off the Bible at his second inaugural.
Most recently, Kerry has helped lead the fight against Bush's push to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. The Senate handed Bush a victory on that front this week, voting to allow the drilling as part of a bill that could not be blocked by a Democratic-led filibuster.
The White House declined to comment on the speech Kerry made Thursday, but took a swipe at his political aspirations in the process. "The president's not on the ballot in 2008," spokesman Trent Duffy said.
The Republican National Committee dismissed Kerry's criticism as politically motivated.
"It's disappointing that John Kerry would employ such overtly partisan and obstructionist rhetoric at a time when most Americans want to see Congress engaged in solving problems, not over-the-top attacks," said RNC spokesman Brian Jones.
Kerry made it clear Thursday that he would escalate his efforts to sharpen the Democratic message and build grass-roots support for the party's House and Senate candidates in 2006. He plans to pursue these goals through a political action committee and a new nonprofit advocacy group.
David Wade, a Kerry spokesman, said the nonprofit organization would attempt to "help Democrats reframe and take on issues," while the political action committee, called Keeping America's Promise, would focus on political organizing.
Kerry said the organizing effort would pattern itself after the 2004 Bush campaign.
"We had … millions of people traveling and … working and doing things," Kerry said of his campaign. "What we didn't have was enough local people in some places who were engaged in that effort. And you don't begin 4 1/2 , five months out. You begin now."
In his speech, Kerry charged that Bush's budget was irresponsible because it would increase debt on future generations, disingenuous because it hid the true size of the deficits, and misguided because it placed a higher priority on tax cuts than on spending initiatives, such as ensuring universal health coverage for children.
"As a statement of fiscal responsibility, this budget is a sham," Kerry said. "As a statement of priorities, it fails the test of common sense."
Speaking of Bolton, a frequent U.N. critic who must be confirmed by the Senate, Kerry said, "It is very hard to commence a new initiative in foreign policy … and then [appoint] somebody to the United Nations who has been so destructive and so clearly dismissive of the U.N. process itself."
Kerry said Wolfowitz, whose nomination must be approved by the World Bank board, was "as guilty as [Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld" of major miscalculations about the war in Iraq.
Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times