Both sides in this election have spent a lot of time talking about "winning the war on terror", but, as RbR points out, neither side has made it clear what that means to them -- until now.
In the magazine interview, Mr. Kerry was asked what it would take for Americans to feel safe again.
"We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance," Mr. Kerry said in the article. "'As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life."
President Bush fired back with this (my emphasis):
"I couldn't disagree more. Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance. Our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive, destroying terrorist networks, and spreading freedom and liberty around the world."
(Both citations are from this New York Times article)
So while Kerry has given a reasonable definition of winning the war on terror, Bush is still using that terminology without explaining what it means. Does he actually believe we can end terrorism for good? It doesn't seem like he does, given his earlier statement that "I don’t think you can win [the war on terror]. But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world." So what's his complaint with Kerry's statement?
The answer is, he and his team are grasping at straws. With no record to trumpet, he is reduced to attacking Kerry and his attacks are getting more and more desperate and farther from the truth. It's his only politically viable move, but it's just too bad we can't stay above the mud-slinging.