DAYTON - Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday turned John Kerry's own words against him, saying his call for a "more sensitive war on terror" won't deter an enemy who must be destroyed.
"President Lincoln and General Grant didn't wage sensitive wars. Neither did President Roosevelt or Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur," Mr. Cheney told an invitation-only crowd of about 600 veterans, emergency response personnel, and the party faithful.
"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," he said. "The men who beheaded Daniel Pearl and Paul Johnson will not be impressed by our sensitivity.
"This is not an enemy we can reason with or negotiate with or appease. This is, to put it simply, an enemy that we must destroy."
Mr. Cheney was criticizing Mr. Kerry's comment last week at the Unity 2004 conference in Washington that he would 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 and lives up to American values in history."
Ohio went to Mr. Bush by 3.5 percentage points in 2000, and polls show the race to be a dead heat this year. Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry will return Monday and Wednesday, respectively, to speak before the national Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Cincinnati.
Although Montgomery County went to Al Gore in 2000, the Dayton area is home to the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and has large employment tied to the defense industry.
"I know it sounds political to talk about the $87 billion vote on the military [for the Iraq war] that Kerry said he supported and then voted against, but that $87 billion is their wife, their husband, or their children," said state Rep. Jon Husted (R., Kettering).
"We're talking about effective gear, effective armor, and the logistical support that they need to do their jobs effectively," he said. "It's not just a number. It's real to these people."
Kerry campaign spokesman Phil Singer said Mr. Cheney, in effect, was also criticizing his boss, noting that President Bush has called for America to be "sensitive about expressing our power and influence."
"Dick Cheney doesn't understand that arrogance isn't a virtue, especially when our country is in danger," he said. "Alienating allies makes it harder to hunt terrorists and bring them justice."
About 100 protesters rallied across the street from the Dayton Convention Center where Mr. Cheney spoke. David Richards of Huber Heights, a retired Air Force master sergeant who didn't see combat, carried a sign reading, "Deferment Dick."
"He got five deferments," he said. "He didn't have to go to war. Now he's talking against a man who's been in combat. That doesn't go well with me, unless you've been there and had the opportunity to experience it."
After Mr. Kerry surrounded himself with fellow swift-boat soldiers from Vietnam, other swift-boat veterans have appeared in an independently financed ad challenging whether he deserved his Silver Star and three Purple Heart medals.
Knowing that the economy could prove the deciding factor in Ohio, Mr. Cheney noted Ohio's unemployment rate of 5.8 percent, although higher than the national average, has dropped from 6.3 percent a year ago.
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