Cheney praises vets, terrorism fight in Reno speech
RENO – Vice President Dick Cheney praised veterans and the Bush administration’s fight against terrorism, saying they’re making the world a safer place.
In a speech Saturday at the Disabled American Veterans national convention, Cheney made no mention of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry but said the Clinton administration wasn’t forceful enough in responding to acts of terrorism.
The vice president said removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan has reduced the terrorism threat and put those countries on the road to democracy.
“We’re safer now but the danger to our country hasn’t passed,” Cheney said. “Our enemies are still ruthless and determined and they intend to strike America again.”
President Bush can do the best job leading the fight against terrorism, Cheney said.
“The war on terror is well begun but it has only begun,” he said. “Victory will take years of sustained effort and an unwavering commitment by the leaders of this nation.”
About 100 people gathered near the Reno Hilton’s main entrance to protest Cheney’s appearance. They waved signs reading “My Husband Went to Vietnam – Where Was Cheney?” and “Cheney Chicken – Bush AWOL Hawk,” referring to Cheney’s lack of military service.
The protesters included veterans, Kerry supporters and anti-war protesters.
“What they’re doing in Iraq and Afghanistan is only going to encourage more terrorism,” said Frank Redmond of Reno, a disabled Vietnam and Persian Gulf veteran who supports Kerry. “As far as benefits, they’re screwing all of us veterans.”
It was Cheney’s third visit to Nevada this year.
He planned to visit other Western battleground states – Arizona and New Mexico – later Saturday. Bush visited Reno last month.
Kerry is scheduled to visit Nevada in the next three weeks. It will be his third visit to the state this year.
Disabled American Veterans is a nonpartisan organization whose 1.3 million members appear split over their presidential choice, said spokesman David Autry.
“You’ll probably find a cross-section of America in our group, and America is divided over the election,” Autry said.
Member James Wallace Jr. of Marietta, Ga., called Kerry a liar and said he plans to vote for Bush in November.
“I think personally that Bush is doing a good job,” said Wallace, a Vietnam War veteran. “You can’t walk off from Iraq without finishing the job. You start something and you have to finish it.”
But Bill Rochon of San Francisco, a veteran of three wars, said he supports Kerry.
“If he (Kerry) sticks to what he says he’ll do, I think he’ll do fine,” Rochon said. “Iraq was an unnecessary war. I thought Vietnam was bad, but Iraq is worse.”
Cheney was accompanied by his wife, Lynn, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi, who said the Bush administration is committed to veterans and plans to seek a $5 billion increase in funding for them in the next fiscal year.
“It’s unfortunate people are saying unfactual things,” Principi said. “My budget has grown by 32 percent over the last three and a half years. We’ve increased the number of vets we’re treating.”
Alan W. Bowers, national commander of Disabled American Veterans, urged Congress to approve full funding for veterans’ health care.
“Many injured soldiers and Marines from Iraq and Afghanistan will need medical help,” he said. “We didn’t get support for full funding but our efforts will continue.”