Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Kerry's naive on terror, Cheney says

Clermont crowd applauds
vice president's criticism of Democrat

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

President Dick Cheney smiles at Congressman Rob Portman (R-Ohio), as he thanks him for his help during a speech at the Clermont County Airport.
(Gary Landers/The Enquirer)
Photos from Monday's rally
BATAVIA TWP. - Appearing in Republican-friendly Clermont County Monday afternoon, Vice President Dick Cheney said Sen. John Kerry "does not understand the danger" of the global war on terror.

In a 26-minute speech that mentioned Kerry by name 21 times, Cheney fulfilled the running mate's role in firing up the base and attacking the opposition - running through the senator's congressional record and public statements and confronting them one by one.

Top among them was Kerry's statement in a New York Times Magazine story the day before:

"We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance," Kerry said. "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."

Cheney's response Monday: "This is naive and dangerous, as was Sen. Kerry's reluctance earlier this year to call the war on terror an actual war.

"He preferred to think of it, he said, as primarily an intelligence and law-enforcement operation. This is all part of a pre-9/11 mind-set, and it is a view we cannot go back to," Cheney said.

He continued, "You occasionally hear some bold talk from him, but it cannot disguise a 30-year record of coming down on the wrong side of virtually every major defense issue."

Democrats said Cheney's speech continued a misleading attack on Kerry's plan to "hunt down and kill the terrorists."

"They're cutting and pasting lines to scare America, and it's ridiculous," said Brendon Cull, a spokesman for the Ohio Democratic coordinated campaign. "John Kerry, on a consistent basis, has said forcefully he will fight the war on terror. It was George Bush who said just a few weeks ago that we can't win the war on terror."

Cheney's visit Monday was part of a swing through Midwestern states of Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Speaking in a hangar at the Clermont County Airport, Cheney read his speech from the podium in a calm, level voice - giving the Columbus Day crowd of about 2,500 few cues to applaud. They found their own.

Much of Cheney's speech consisted of lines he's used before, on the stump or in last week's vice presidential debate. The only apparently unscripted moment came when Cheney offered what may or may not have been a slip of the tongue.

"On issues of vital national security, Sen. Kennedy - excuse me ... I keep forgetting that Sen. Kerry is the more liberal senator," Cheney said to uproarious laughter. "Sen. Kerry offers a record of weakness and a strategy of retreat."

President Bush made a similar flub in the second presidential debate Friday when he said, "National Journal named Senator Kennedy the most liberal senator of all." Unlike Cheney, he did not correct himself.

Warming up the crowd were Pro Football Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz, Clermont County GOP Chairman Tim Rudd and U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. Joining them were the families of two Clermont County servicemen: Staff Sgt. Charles Kiser, killed by a car bomb in Iraq in June, and Spc. Keith "Matt" Maupin, missing since April.

Christian conservatives were also in attendance, with Dr. John C. Willke, the founder of the Right to Life movement, giving an invocation urging the re-election of Bush and Cheney to "return the nation to its earlier, Christian roots."

Two-thirds of Clermont County voters went for Bush in 2000, and Cheney said "it looks like Batavia is Bush-Cheney country."

Cheney praised Portman, who helped him prepare for last week's vice presidential debate.

"He also makes a pretty good Joe Lieberman and John Edwards," he said, explaining that Portman served as a stand-in for his vice presidential opponent in the 2000 campaign as well. "I have to tell you, he was tougher than either one of them."

A Cheney spokeswoman said the vice president planned to return to Cincinnati as early as next week. Also, the Kerry campaign announced Monday that the senator would take a bus trip through southern Ohio Saturday, starting in Xenia.

E-mail gkorte@enquirer.com

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