Cheney defends war against terrorism
Vice president stumps for candidates in tough contests

DAVID AMMONS; The Associated Press
Published: April 18th, 2006 01:00 AM

EVERETT – Vice President Dick Cheney returned Monday to Washington state, the scene of repeated frustration for Republican presidential tickets, and delivered a spirited defense of the beleaguered Bush administration while raising money for GOP congressional candidates.

Cheney stumped in Everett for U.S. House hopeful Doug Roulstone, a retired Navy commander, and blistered Sen. John Kerry and other national Democrats as weak-kneed on defense.

Cheney then flew to Spokane, in more Republican-friendly Eastern Washington, to address troops at Fairchild Air Force Base and to headline a fundraising event for U.S. Senate contender Mike McGavick, who is challenging Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

“It’s vital to have the wisdom and character and vision of Mike McGavick in the nation’s capital,” Cheney said, while flanked by McGavick and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris, R-Colville, during his speech in the Marie Antoinette Room at the Davenport Hotel.

Washington hasn’t given its 11 electoral votes to the Republicans since Ronald Reagan was on the ballot in 1984. The Bush-Cheney ticket was swamped twice and has dismal poll standings here.

In Spokane, about 200 people paid $500 per ticket to hear Cheney, and an undisclosed number paid $2,100 to be photographed with the vice president. A small number sat with the vice president in a “round-table” discussion. A McGavick spokeswoman declined to say how much money was raised.

Some 100 protesters waved signs outside the Davenport as Cheney arrived.

“This trip says a lot about who Mike McGavick’s base is in the coming election,” said protester Mike Kress, who held a sign saying “Cheney’s Crimes: 9-11, Iraq, Torture.

Democrats said the visit by Cheney, who has lower approval ratings than President Bush, indicate McGavick is desperate for support. McGavick denied that.

“It means a lot to this campaign for the vice president to come here and be supportive of the campaign,” McGavick said prior to the visit. “We’ve got to appeal to conservatives, independents and even Democrats.

The latest campaign finance reports, released Monday, showed McGavick raised more than $1.2 million in the first three months of the year, but Cantwell led in the race for campaign cash.

Cantwell, who is seeking her second six-year term, raised more than $1.8 million in the first three months of the year and had $5.6 million cash on hand as of March 31. McGavick had $896,000 in cash, his campaign said.

In all three of his appearances Monday, Cheney vigorously defended the Bush administration’s efforts in the war on terror and the war in Iraq.

While no one can guarantee that terrorists will not strike the nation again, “the enemy that struck America is weakened and fractured,” Cheney said.

During a speech inside a giant hanger at Fairchild, Cheney thanked about 500 airmen for their sacrifices in Iraq.

“The war on terror is a battle for the future of civilization,” Cheney said. “It’s a battle we are going to win.”

Cheney’s speech at the base did not deviate much from standard Bush administration defense of the war, saying the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 required a strong U.S. response, and defending the Patriot Act and related measures as essential to the fight.

About 450 airmen from Fairchild are deployed overseas, flying the base’s KC-135 air refueling tankers.

A reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq will depend on the situation on the ground, “not artificial time lines set by politicians in Washington, D.C.,” Cheney said.

Earlier in the day in Everett, the vice president was subdued and grim in his 16-minute speech at Roulstone’s $250-a-plate luncheon, yet was repeatedly cheered by the partisan audience. Cheney said the Bush administration has helped create full employment and a vibrant economy that is the envy of the world.

But most of his remarks were focused on the Iraq war and global terrorism.

“Our nation is still at risk from attack, but yet the farther we get away from Sept. 11, some in the nation’s capital are yielding to the temptation to downplay the threat and back away from the business at hand. That mind-set is dangerous.”

Without mentioning names, he excoriated Kerry and Democratic national chairman Howard Dean and other Democrats for opposing the war effort.