Bin Laden wants Kerry elected, Thompson says
Ex-governor tells voters that Bush will keep America safe
By STEVEN WALTERS
Posted: Oct. 30, 2004
Monroe - Osama bin Laden's videotaped threat just days before the presidential election was designed to help Democratic Sen. John Kerry get elected, cabinet secretary and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson said Saturday.
Bin Laden's message was "obvious to anybody that looks at it," Thompson said during campaign speeches in Monroe and Platteville.
"There's no question in my mind, and I think to anybody who knows how close this election is," Thompson said later during an interview. "Osama bin Laden would not give out a video report 72 hours before the election unless he wanted to influence it.
"He would like to see somebody other than George Bush, because George Bush has really taken it to him," added Thompson, the U.S. secretary of health and human services and an appointee of President Bush.
Kerry would not work as hard as Bush has to hunt down bin Laden, Thompson said in Monroe.
Bin Laden "knows that John Kerry will not be a persistent individual that is after him, that is going to be out to destroy him, like he is out to destroy America," Thompson said. "We need to make sure that America is safe."
George Twigg, spokesman for Kerry's Wisconsin campaign, said Bush "hasn't been persistent" about attacking bin Laden. Bush first said he wanted bin Laden "dead or alive" but later said he "wasn't concerned" about him, Twigg said.
Asked about Thompson's claim that bin Laden's threat was designed to help Kerry, Twigg said, "I don't know why bin Laden would want to do that," because Kerry has repeatedly vowed as president to do "whatever it takes" to hunt down, capture or kill terrorists worldwide.
Bush "hasn't made us safer than four years ago, and there's no reason to believe another four years will be any different," Twigg said.
On a Saturday bus tour designed to stitch together support for Bush and Republican candidates in western Wisconsin, Thompson called another terrorist attack on America "logical and likely" if the security measures the Bush administration has put in place are weakened.
If America doesn't continue Bush's security policies, the four-term governor added, "The eventuality is (terrorists) will hit us in our homeland again."
In the videotape made public Friday, bin Laden says the United States can avoid another attack if it stops threatening Muslims. Admitting for the first time that he ordered the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, bin Laden also warns that there are "still reasons" for another attack.
Thompson said he originally thought bin Laden's video would hurt President Bush's re-election chances, but changed his mind after talking with aides, friends and family members. He predicted the terrorist's comments would help Bush win over undecided voters - voters Bush may need to win battleground states such as Wisconsin.
"I've come to the conclusion this has got to help George Bush, because if you are undecided and you see a sworn enemy of America - somebody bragging about what he was able to accomplish to hurt our country and kill thousands of Americans, and have the audacity to brag about it," Thompson said.
Thompson expects Bush, if re-elected, to ask him to stay on as health and human services secretary. Thompson said he would listen but plans to leave his job next year. Thompson also told several fans who pleaded with him to run for governor again in 2006 that he hadn't ruled it out.
Thompson's bus tour contrasted with Kerry's visit to Madison on Wednesday, where the Democrat was introduced to the cheers of thousands of University of Wisconsin-Madison students.
On Saturday, Thompson was greeted by the Madison Brass band, whose members gladly noted that their music wasn't on Springsteen's play list.
"Let's hear Springsteen play that," one band member noted shortly before the group launched into "In Heaven There is No Beer."