Flanked by families who lost relatives in the 9/11 attacks, Sen. John Edwards accused the Bush administration of failing to adequately protect the United States against another terrorist strike.
"Because of President Bush's wrong choices, America is still vulnerable," the Democratic vice-presidential candidate told about 500 people at an outdoor, town hall-style gathering at this busy port.
The site, across the Hudson River from Manhattan, was chosen to emphasize the Democrats' assertion that Bush has left the nation's ports and borders exposed to terrorist acts.
He said that despite the potential of dangerous materials entering the country through the ports, the government can inspect only five percent of the 7 million containers that enter the nation annually.
Edwards said that is just one example of how the administration has diverted its attention from the needs of homeland security to wage the war on Iraq, which, he said, was not central to the battle against terrorism.
"We spend more in four days in Iraq than we have spent in the last three years since Sept. 11 on protecting our commercial seaports," he said.
Edwards' assertions were bolstered by members of an estimated 100 families who lost relatives in the attack on the World Trade Center. Several of them criticized Bush for opposing the creation and then the funding of the 9/11 commission and then trying to prevent the release of government documents relating to the attack.
"Because of President Bush's wrong choices, America is still vulnerable," Edwards said.
It was Edwards' second campaign trip to New Jersey in as many weeks. Polls have shown the state, which has voted Democratic in the last three presidential elections, to be a toss-up this year, though the Kerry-Edwards ticket is running slightly ahead.
Republican officials said yesterday that Vice President Dick Cheney would make a campaign stop in Burlington County next week.