John Kerry locked horns with George W. Bush in a tense televised debate tonight, accusing him of making a "colossal error of judgment" by invading Iraq while the president responded that his opponent was unfit to lead.
"I can make America safer than President Bush," said Kerry, who accused the Republican commander-in-chief of misleading Americans, alienating key allies and unnecessarily shouldering most of the burden of the Iraq conflict.
Kerry, in calm, confident tones and frequently smiling, maintained he wouldn't have taken "take his eye off the gold" - Al Qaeda terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
"Saddam Hussein didn't attack us. Osama bin Laden attacked us," said Kerry. "Iraq wasn't even close to the war on terror before the president invaded. And he rushed to the war in Iraq without a plan to win the peace."
"Unfortunately he didn't go to war as a last resort," he added.
Bush, holding his own for the most part, responded that Iraq is a central war on terror and losing there would be a big "disaster."