Buoyant Kerry refuses to rule out 2008 run

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The Independent US

Sounding as much a future presidential candidate as a past one, John Kerry inveighed against George Bush's policies on Iraq, tax cuts and social security reform yesterday and refused to rule out a second run for the White House in 2008.

Sounding as much a future presidential candidate as a past one, John Kerry inveighed against George Bush's policies on Iraq, tax cuts and social security reform yesterday and refused to rule out a second run for the White House in 2008.

In his first major television interview since his narrow ldefeat in last November's election, the Massachusetts senator told NBC's Meet the Press programme that the war in Iraq had made America not more safe, but less safe.

Mr Kerry took issue with the call by his Massachusetts colleague, Edward Kennedy, for an immediate start to a withdrawal of US troops, arguing that an American presence would be needed until enough Iraqi forces had been trained to replace them. But he professed himself "appalled at the level of training thus far".

Mr Kerry recently toured the region, meeting key American allies including President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

On social security reform - which is already shaping up as the most divisive and contested of Mr Bush's second-term policy objectives - Mr Kerry accused the President of exaggerating the problem. The programme's longer-term solvency would not be in doubt, but for Mr Bush's sweeping tax cuts, some of which Mr Kerry had promised to roll back if he won the White House.

Above all, however, he did not sound like a politician content to rest on his laurels. "I intend to lay out, over the next few months, how we can do a better job" than the present Republican administration, Mr Kerry vowed, emphasising that he was "keeping all options open" for 2008.

With his appearance, the Massachusetts senator seemed to be staking his claim to be de facto leader of his party, the chief Democrat spokesman against the Bush administration.

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