Posted on Tue, Apr. 27, 2004
Cheney's Missouri talk
The Associated Press
FULTON, Mo.-Vice President Dick Cheney questioned on Monday whether John Kerry was fit to serve as president in a time of war.
Cheney spoke at Westminster College, where Winston Churchill in 1946 warned against the "Iron Curtain" of communism.
"The senator from Massachusetts has given us ample grounds to doubt the judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security," Cheney said.
Later, the college's president told his campus he was so "surprised and disappointed" about Cheney's attacks on Kerry that he is inviting the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee to visit for a reply.
Cheney's spokeswoman, Nicolle Devenish, replied that the speech was always intended as a "campaign message event."
Cheney said that Kerry had wavered on his commitment to ousting Saddam Hussein as well as his view of the Persian Gulf War coalition built by President Bush's father in the 1990s.
He mocked Kerry's contradictory explanations of his own foreign policies and said Kerry has voted to cut U.S. intelligence spending.
Westminster College President Fletcher Lamkin told The Associated Press that Cheney's staff approached him last week about using Westminster as the backdrop "for a major foreign policy address. Nothing was said about a stump speech."
In a campuswide e-mail after the speech, Lamkin wrote: "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."
Devenish said it was unfortunate if the speech came as a surprise to Lamkin, the students or the faculty.
"It was a major foreign policy address," she said, "and it's my understanding that the college was made aware that Senator Kerry's different views on foreign policy would be mentioned throughout."
Lamkin told the AP "we would be naive not to think there would be some politics in an address during an election year, so no, we were not duped." But he added: "The second half of the speech was all about politics and a political stump speech and in that respect it was disappointing."
Kerry spokesman Bill Burton said the campaign received Lamkin's e-mail and would consider a visit to Westminster, located in the center of a presidential battleground state.
In his speech, Cheney compared the decisions the White House has had to make in the war on terrorism to the choices faced by President Harry S. Truman in the aftermath of World War II. He portrayed Kerry as a wobbly politician who could not be counted on to tackle such huge issues.