Democrat John Kerry links the cost of the Iraq war to problems at home and vows in a new television ad to both "defend America and fight for the middle class."
"Two hundred billion dollars. That's what we are spending in Iraq because George Bush chose to go it alone," Kerry says in the ad, to start airing Monday in 13 states. "Now the president tells us we don't have the resources to take care of health care and education here at home. That's wrong."
Suggesting that Bush ignored domestic ills while focusing on the war abroad, Kerry says: "As president, I'll stop at nothing to get the terrorists before they get us. But I'll also fight to build a stronger middle class."
The $200 billion estimate reflects the campaign's calculation of funds already spent on combat and reconstruction in Iraq, and money anticipated to be spent through next summer, based on congressional reports. The war has cost about $120 billion, according to the White House Office of Budget and Management.
Bush has never said there's no money for education or health care. Kerry's campaign bases the claim on Bush's budget proposals for education and reports of rising health care premiums.
Bush's campaign noted that in August 2003 on NBC's "Meet the Press," Kerry said war spending should be increased "by whatever number of billions of dollars it takes to win."
"After attacking the president for not spending enough on Iraq, John Kerry is now attacking the president for spending too much," Bush spokesman Steve Schmidt said. "John Kerry's hypocritical attacks and continually shifting positions on Iraq are costing him the trust of the American people."