By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press
A bumper sticker being circulated in Louisville that reads "Kerry is bin Laden's Man/Bush is Mine" was applauded by a Republican leader Friday but decried by Democrats.
Jack Richardson IV, chairman of the Jefferson County GOP, said he didn't know the bumper sticker's origins, but agreed with its message.
"If bin Laden could vote based on Kerry's voting record in the Senate - where he has decimated our national security and defense - is there anybody that can honestly say bin Laden wouldn't prefer Kerry over Bush? Of course he would," Richardson said.
He said the bumper sticker reinforces an underlying question of the presidential campaign - "in whose hands are we safer when it comes to bin Laden and the terrorists - George Bush or John Kerry?"
"If I was in bin Laden's shoes, I sure as heck would want Kerry," Richardson said.
Richardson said he first noticed the bumper stickers mentioning the al-Qaida leader this week. He said the local GOP had no involvement in creating them, but said the stickers were available at the county's GOP headquarters and were a popular item. He said he hoped the local GOP office will receive additional supplies.
Anthony Coley, a Kerry campaign spokesman, said the sticker went "way over the line."
"This hateful and mean-spirited smear campaign has no place in American politics," said Coley, adding that the state's elected Republican leaders should repudiate the attack.
Mark Nickolas, a Democratic political strategist, called on Richardson to resign as GOP chairman in the state's most populous county.
"It is equating a decorated war hero ... with a murderer of thousands of Americans," Nickolas said. "I think it is despicable."
State Democratic Chairman Bill Garmer condemned the bumper sticker as divisive. He said Kerry wants to bolster U.S. forces in Afghanistan to search for bin Laden.
A handful of demonstrators gathered Friday afternoon outside the Jefferson County GOP headquarters to protest the sticker.
Protesters said the sticker had been displayed in the office's window in recent days, and showed photos of it hanging beneath a Bush/Cheney '04 sign. The sticker was not in the window as the protesters gathered with signs reading "Republican Shame" on Friday evening.
"That's ridiculous," said Nancy Jakubiak, a protester. "And what does it say that it's not there any more?"
State Republican Chairman John McCarthy said he had not seen the bin Laden sticker and said it wasn't sanctioned by the state GOP.
"I think most rational people understand that John Kerry is not a terrorist as bin Laden is," he said. "But I do think it highlights the fact that John Kerry did not support our troops in Iraq with his votes."
McCarthy noted Kerry's opposition in the Senate to Bush's request for $87 billion in supplemental funding for Iraq and Afghanistan last year. Kerry has said he did so because a policy change was needed.
Garmer accused Republicans of using campaign tactics "appealing to our fears and prejudices. They are trying to appeal to the worst of our instincts."
Associated Press reporter Malcolm C. Knox in Louisville contributed to this report.
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