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Cheney blasts Kerry over 'sensitive war' remark

Says no war 'was won by being sensitive'

Vice President Dick Cheney speaks Thursday in Dayton, Ohio.
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• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
Dick Cheney
John F. Kerry
George W. Bush
America Votes 2004

DAYTON, Ohio (CNN) -- Drawing derisive chuckles from the crowd, Vice President Dick Cheney Thursday blasted Sen. John Kerry for a remark the Democratic presidential candidate made last week about fighting a "more sensitive war on terror" if elected.

"America has been in too many wars for any of our wishes, but not a one of them was won by being sensitive," Cheney told a crowd of veterans, law enforcement officers, firefighters and current members of the armed services in Dayton, Ohio.

The vice president was referring to a portion of Kerry's explanation of how he would reach out to potential allies in the war on terror. (Special Report: America Votes 2004)

"A sensitive war will not destroy the evil men who killed 3,000 Americans and who seek the chemical, nuclear and biological weapons to kill hundreds of thousands more. The men who beheaded Daniel Pearl and Paul Johnson will not be impressed by our sensitivity."

Last Thursday, Kerry told minority journalists at the Unity 2004 conference in Washington that "I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side."

At an event Wednesday in Joplin, Missouri, an audience member asked Cheney's wife, Lynne Cheney, for her reaction to Kerry's remark.

"With all due respect to the senator, it just sounded so foolish," she said. "I can't imagine that al Qaeda will be impressed by sensitivity."

She went on to say Kerry's comment was an expression of an "extreme left" idea that Americans bear responsibility for the terrorism now threatening them.

"'If we'll just adjust our attitude' seems to be the idea," she said. "This is the kind of left-wing foolishness that certainly isn't appropriate for someone who would seek to be commander-in-chief."

Bush campaign officials insisted after the event that the question, which was directed at Lynne Cheney and not her husband, was not planted.

They also said Cheney's speech addressing Kerry's remark has been in the works for the last five days.

A Bush campaign official said that when it comes to differences between the Republican and Democratic tickets on the Iraq war, Kerry's "more sensitive" remark "wraps it all up in a bow." (Bush: 'I know what I'm doing' on war)

The Kerry campaign Thursday said that the senator's comment was being "taken out of context" and the "meaning twisted" by the Bush/Cheney campaign. (Kerry wraps up coast-to-coast tour)

Kerry spokesman Phil Singer told CNN the Democratic candidate was referring to cooperation with allies. President Bush himself, Singer said, used the word "sensitive" in a similar context in March 2001, when he said the United States should be "sensitive about expressing our power and influence."

"If you continue with a foreign policy when you're arrogant, it makes it harder to hunt down terrorists," Singer said. "Arrogance leaves us isolated."

Cheney's comments, the Kerry spokesman said, are "driven by concern of the Bush campaign that they are in deep trouble and their poll numbers are sinking."

Thursday, the vice president also attacked Kerry's attendance record on the Senate Intelligence Committee and what he called the Democratic ticket's "failed thinking of the past."

"They talk about jobs, yet they never explain how they would put a single American back to work. They opposed our tax relief, and now they're proposing massive increases in federal spending," Cheney said.

"Their big idea for the economy? To raise your taxes," he added.

Thursday afternoon, Kerry will make a campaign stop in Carson, California, where he'll tout his plan to make $400 billion in new tax cuts -- cuts he says will spur the economy, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class.

CNN's Jill Dougherty and Catherine Berger contributed to this report.

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