Saturday, October 23, 2004

Mongiardo, Bunning camps trade barbs

By Dylan T. Lovan
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Democrat Dan Mongiardo attacked U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning as "out of touch" Friday, a day after Bunning said he hadn't heard of a recent national news story from Iraq involving a Kentucky soldier.

"The least we can expect from our U.S. Senator is that he knows what's going on," Mongiardo, a state senator, said during a rally in front of a veterans' memorial in downtown Louisville.

Bunning's campaign manager, David Young, said Mongiardo and Democratic Sen. John Kerry are "out of touch."

"Daniel Mongiardo supports John Kerry, who voted against funding to protect our troops in the war on terrorism," Young said.

"You just can't get any more out of touch than Kerry and Mongiardo."

In recent days, Bunning has accused his opponent of spreading false rumors questioning the senator's mental competency, but also has sought to assure voters that he is sharp and healthy.

Answering a reporter's question Thursday, he said he doesn't read newspapers and wasn't aware that a group of Army reservists had made national headlines when they refused an order to transport supplies from an air base to a city north of Baghdad.

One of the reservists, 22-year-old Justin Rogers, is from Louisville.

"I don't know anything about that," Bunning said after a speech before a Rotary club meeting in downtown Louisville.

Told that the story was broadcast on the national news this week, Bunning said he didn't see the report on Fox News, his preferred news outlet.

"Let me explain something: I don't watch the national news, and I don't read the paper. I haven't done that for the last six weeks. I watch Fox News to get my information," he said.

When asked if that made him out of touch with recent events, Bunning calmly replied, "Of course not."

"Why do you do that?" he asked.

"That's unfair. You know it is," Bunning said. "Of course I'm not out of touch."

The Hall of Fame former baseball pitcher added that he is "sharp, healthy, mentally awake and competent."

Some in the Army platoon that is part of the 343rd Quartermaster Company told relatives they refused to deliver tainted helicopter fuel because they would be traveling on a dangerous supply route without an armed escort.

The Army is investigating the incident.

Mongiardo, speaking in front of about 50 people Friday, said Bunning's comment that he wasn't aware of the Iraq story was a "stunning admission."

Bunning last week released letters from two doctors stating he is in "excellent health," but three days later the Courier-Journal of Louisville questioned whether he had a "serious health concern" in an editorial titled "Bunning's fitness."

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