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Inside Politics

Democratic leader blasts Cheney

Vice president targets Kerry in speech


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney, who often serves as the administration's point man in attacking White House hopeful John Kerry, was the subject of a blistering critique by a key Democratic leader on Monday.

Cheney, said Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Terry McAuliffe, is "the Bush campaign's attack dog-in-chief."

And McAuliffe charged that Cheney had misled the nation on a host of issues, ranging from his own records as a onetime defense secretary to his pre-Iraq War statements that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

"Why should we believe a word Dick Cheney says about John Kerry -- especially when it comes to defending our country?" McAuliffe asked.

"For four years, Dick Cheney hasn't been straight with the American people. Why should he start now?"

For his part, Cheney targeted Kerry in a speech delivered in Missouri, questioning Kerry's ability to serve as commander-in-chief. He accused him of "inconsistencies and changing rationales" in his approach to Iraq.

Kerry, a four-term senator from Massachusetts and decorated Vietnam veteran, voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam, but he has since strongly criticized President's Bush's policy in Iraq.

Cheney said that if it was up to Kerry, "Saddam Hussein would still be in power" and charged that the presumptive Democratic nominee lacked an understanding "of the broader war against terror."

But McAuliffe noted that Cheney was one of several administration figures who had warned of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction in the buildup to the war.

No such weapons have been found in Iraq since a U.S.-led invasion last year.

And McAuliffe pointedly noted that Cheney never served in the armed forces.

"He's the last guy who should be lecturing John Kerry about how to defend America and keep the faith with those who wear the uniform," McAuliffe said.

Cheney's role in attacking Kerry on the campaign trail was the focus of much of McAuliffe's speech, which he delivered at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington.

McAuliffe laid out a spirited defense of Kerry and his military record while raising questions about Cheney's character.

Claiming that the Bush re-election campaign has "wasted $50 million on an ad campaign where truth was the first casualty," McAuliffe defended Kerry as a candidate with a clean record on defense despite "Republican attack dogs' attempts to smear" it.

"Last week, we saw the Republican attack machine go back to their favorite playbook when they criticized John Kerry's tour of duty in Vietnam," said McAuliffe.

"Apparently, two tours in Vietnam, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and Three Purple Hearts weren't good enough for the folks who never miss a chance to say that military service shouldn't be an issue in this campaign."

McAuliffe charged that Cheney, as secretary of defense during the administration of Bush's father, worked to cut defense programs such as the M-1 tank, B-2 bomber, AH-64 Apache helicopter and F-16 fighter jets.

Some of those weapons and equipment, McAuliffe said, "our troops are using right now in Iraq."

Republicans are attacking Kerry on the very same issue.

A new television ad focuses on some weapons program votes to suggest that Kerry is weak on national defense.


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