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BATAVIA, Ohio - Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday used a rally in southeastern Ohio to pounce on an interview by Sen. John Kerry in which the Democrat expressed hope that terrorism could someday be treated as a "nuisance" similar to gambling and prostitution.
"We have to get back to the place, he said, where terrorism is a nuisance, sort of like, these are his comparisons, gambling and prostitution," Mr. Cheney said to a flood of boos from a ticket-only Republican crowd of 2,500 in an airport hangar in Clermont County.
"This is naive and dangerous, as was Senator Kerry's reluctance earlier this year to call the war on terror an actual war," he said. "He preferred to think of it, he said, as primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation. This is all part of a pre-9/11 mindset, and it's a view we cannot go back to."
President Bush echoed the message at a campaign event in New Mexico yesterday, and Republicans launched a television ad in battleground states attacking Senator Kerry's comments, published Sunday in the New York Times.
Democrats countered with an ad reminding voters that the President suggested in a television interview that the war against terror could not be won, a comment from which Mr. Bush later backed away.
"Considering that George Bush doesn't think we can win the war on terror, let Osama Bin Laden escape, and rushed into Iraq with no plan to win the peace, it's no surprise that his campaign is distorting every word John Kerry has ever said," said Kerry spokesman Phil Singer. "John Kerry is going to hunt and kill the terrorists before they can come after us, and no amount of selective editing by the Bush campaign can change that basic fact.''
In the interview the Democratic presidential nominee responded to a question about what it would take to make Americans feel safe by saying, "We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance.
"As a former law enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution," he said. "We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life."
Behind Mr. Cheney on the stage yesterday in Batavia were the parents of U.S. Army Spec. Matt Maupin, who has been missing in Iraq since April 9. Many of those in the crowd wore pins bearing Mr. Maupin's photograph.
"If we fail to aggressively prosecute the war on terror, destroy the terrorists where we find them, and confront everyone who sponsors terror, danger will only increase," he said. "The terrorists will escalate their attacks, here at home and overseas, and the likelihood will increase that they will acquire weapons of mass destruction."
Mr. Bush carried conservative Clermont County, east of Cincinnati on the Ohio River, by 26,000 votes over Al Gore in 2000. Statewide Mr. Bush carried Ohio by a margin of 3.5 percent.
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