(AP) EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — John Edwards ripped President Bush’s administration as incompetent, saying the president has transformed Iraq into a terrorist stronghold, let Osama bin Laden escape and run up trillions of dollars in debt during his visit to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Tuesday.
Hundreds of people, most of them UW-Eau Claire students, crammed the gym at the McPhee Physical Education Center on campus for the Democratic vice presidential candidate’s 45-minute speech.
“After Nov. 2, we’re going to give him all the time in the world to think about the mistakes he’s made,” Edwards said as the crowd roared.
Edwards attacked Bush throughout almost the entire speech and played off the president asking a moderator during one of his debates with Kerry how much time he had left.
“Come Nov. 2, you’re going to answer George Bush’s question for him,” Edwards yelled.
“Two more weeks! Two more weeks!” the crowd shouted back.
Just as Kerry has been doing on the campaign trail, Edwards chewed Bush on the flu vaccine shortage. He said Bush’s decision to forgo a shot is no answer.
“I love this … that’s a great solution for the country,” Edwards said. “This president couldn’t even deal with the flu shot crisis.”
Vaccine supplies to the United States — expected to be about 100 million doses — were nearly cut in half this month when authorities discovered that vaccine from one of two suppliers, Chiron Corp., was potentially contaminated and could not be used. That cut off 46 million to 48 million expected doses.
Bush campaign spokeswoman Merrill Smith, contacted later, called Edwards’ remarks “scare tactics” and tore into Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s record on national security, saying he voted to cut $6 billion in intelligence funding after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
“John Kerry and his running mates have lost any shred of credibility,” she said.
Edwards’ visit kicked off another intense week of campaigning in the battleground state of Wisconsin, including a Bush visit in Eau Claire Wednesday and a Milwaukee stop Friday by Kerry.
The Republican president lost Wisconsin to Democrat Al Gore by less than 6,000 votes in 2000.
Kaia Johnson, a 25-year-old UW-Eau Claire environmental health graduate student from Chippewa Falls, said she likes what she heard from Edwards.
“I agree with everything he said,” Johnson said. “The difference (between Bush and Cheney and Kerry and Edwards) is like night and day … Kerry and Edwards are focused on the people at home, the middle class.”