- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 27, 2004

FULTON, Mo. — Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday accused Sen. John Kerry of “deeply irresponsible” votes against intelligence funding and a condescending “contempt” for U.S. allies in Iraq.

“From the beginning of his career in the U.S. Senate 20 years ago, Senator Kerry has repeatedly called for major reductions, or outright cancellations, of many of our most important weapons systems,” Mr. Cheney said at Westminster College, site of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s famous 1946 “Iron Curtain” speech.

“It is irresponsible to vote against vital support for the United States military,” he added, drawing applause from 600 students and faculty members.

The vice president also challenged Mr. Kerry to name the New York restaurants in which, he suggested, he was endorsed by foreign leaders.

Mr. Cheney mocked the Massachusetts Democrat for saying: “You can go to New York City and you can be in a restaurant and you can meet a foreign leader.”

“Maybe next time, he’ll narrow it down for us a little more,” the vice president said. “Maybe the name of the restaurant. Maybe the leader.”

It was the second time in two months that Mr. Cheney aggressively challenged Mr. Kerry’s fitness to be commander in chief. But even before the vice president arrived in Missouri, he was lambasted by Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

“When John Kerry was risking his life for his country in Vietnam, Dick Cheney was getting deferments because, in his words, he had ‘other priorities than military service,’ ” Mr. McAuliffe said in Washington. “He’s the last guy who should be lecturing John Kerry about how to defend America.”

Mr. Cheney said it was perfectly appropriate to question Mr. Kerry’s fitness to prosecute the war against terrorism.

“The president’s conduct in leading America through a time of unprecedented danger, his ability to make decisions and to stand by them is a measure that must be applied to the candidate who now opposes him in the election of 2004 the junior senator from Massachusetts,” he said.

The vice president pointed out that in 1984, Mr. Kerry called for canceling weapons systems used in fighting the Cold War, the Persian Gulf War and the war on terror, including the MX and Patriot missiles, B-1 bomber, Strategic Defense Initiative, F-14 fighter jet and Apache helicopter.

“At the same time, he proposed reductions in funding for the Tomahawk cruise missile and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle,” Mr. Cheney said. “And at numerous times, Senator Kerry has voted against funding weapons systems vital to fighting and winning the war on terror such as the Black Hawk helicopter and the Predator drone.”

But the speech played badly with a part of the audience Westminster President Fletcher M. Lamkin. In a note to students, faculty and staff after the speech, Mr. Lamkin said the school did not know that Mr. Cheney would engage in “Kerry-bashing.”

“I must admit that I was surprised and disappointed that Mr. Cheney chose to step off the high ground and resort to Kerry-bashing for a large portion of his speech.” Mr. Lamkin said. “The content and tone of his speech was not provided to us prior to the event we had only been told the speech would be about foreign policy, including issues in Iraq.”

In the note, Mr. Lamkin had invited Mr. Kerry to speak at Westminster “in the interest of balance and fairness and integrity.”

The Kerry campaign distributed Mr. Lamkin’s note by e-mail to reporters and said Mr. Cheney had “misled his hosts.”

Nicolle Devenish, a Cheney spokeswoman, said the speech, which was similar to a March 17 speech given by the vice president, always was intended as a “campaign message event.”

The visit to Missouri was paid for by the Bush-Cheney re-election committee, not the White House.

“It was a major foreign-policy address, and it’s my understanding that the college was made aware that Senator Kerry’s different views on foreign policy would be mentioned throughout,” Miss Devenish told reporters.

In his speech, the vice president also hammered Mr. Kerry for disparaging the U.S.-led coalition to overthrow dictator Saddam Hussein.

“To the many nations that have joined our coalition, Senator Kerry offers only condescension,” he said. “Senator Kerry calls these ‘window dressing.’ They are, in his words, ‘a coalition of the coerced and the bribed.’

“I am aware of no other instance in which a presumptive nominee for president of the United States has spoken with such disdain of active, fighting allies of the United States in a time of war,” he added. “Senator Kerry’s contempt for our good allies is ungrateful to nations that have withstood danger, hardship and insult for standing with America in the cause of freedom.”

Also criticizing Mr. Cheney’s lack of Vietnam service yesterday was a Democrat advocacy group, America Coming Together (ACT).

“Mr. Cheney, of course, has never hesitated to advocate sending American men and women into harm’s way,” ACT said. “But when it was Cheney’s time to serve, he himself admitted, he had ‘other priorities in the ‘60s than military service.’ ”

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