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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Cheney Speaks at Reagan Library

Aired March 17, 2004 - 13:55   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And we're listening to the vice president. We've been monitoring him at the Reagan Library. He's talking there and speaking specifically at this moment, we are told, about Senator John Kerry. Let's listen.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: About the need for international cooperation and has vowed to usher in a golden age of American diplomacy. He is fond of mentioning that some countries did not support America's actions in Iraq, yet of the many nations that have joined our coalition, allies and friends of the United States, Senator Kerry speaks with open contempt.

Great Britain, Australia, Italy, Spain, Poland and more than 20 other nations have contributed and sacrificed for the freedom of the Iraqi people. Senator Kerry calls these countries "window dressing." They are, in his words, "a coalition of the coerced and the bribed."

Many questions come to mind but the first is this. How would Senator Kerry describe Great Britain, coerced or bribed? Or Italy, which recently lost 19 citizens killed by terrorists in Najaf, was Italy's contribution just window dressing?

If such dismissive terms are the vernacular of the golden age of diplomacy Senator Kerry promises we are left to wonder which nations would care to join any future coalition. He speaks as if only those who openly oppose America's objectives have a chance of earning his respect.

Senator Kerry's characterization of our good allies is ungrateful to nations that have withstood danger, hardship and insult for standing with America in the cause of freedom.

Senator Kerry has also had a few things to say about support for our troops now on the ground in Iraq. Among other criticisms he has asserted that those troops are not receiving the material support they need.

Just this morning, he again gave the example of body armor, which he said our administration failed to supply. May I remind the Senator that last November at the president's request, Congress passed an $87 billion supplemental appropriation.

This legislation was essential to our ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, providing funding for body armor and other vital equipment, hazard pay, health benefits, ammunition, fuel, spare parts for our military. The legislation passed overwhelmingly with a vote in the Senate of 87-12. Senator Kerry voted no. I note that yesterday, attempting to clarify the matter, Senator Kerry said: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." It's a true fact.

On national security, the Senator has shown at least measure of consistency. Over the years he's repeatedly voted against weapon systems for the military. He voted against the Apache helicopter, against the Tomahawk cruise missile, against even the Bradley fighting vehicle. He's also been a reliable vote against military pay increases, opposing them no fewer than 12 times.

Many of these very weapon systems have been used by our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and are proving to be valuable assets in the war on terror. In his defense, of course, Senator Kerry has questioned whether the war on terror is really a war at all.

Recently he said, and I quote: "I don't want to use that terminology." In his view, opposing terrorism is far less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence gathering law enforcement operation.

As we've seen, however, that approach was tried before and proved entirely inadequate to protecting the American people from the terrorists who are quite certain they are at war with us and are comfortable using that terminology.

I leave it for Senator Kerry to explain or explain away his votes and his statements about the war on terror, our cause in Iraq, the allies who serve with us and the needs of our military. Whatever the explanation, whatever nuances he might fault us for neglecting, it is not an impressive record for someone who aspires to become commander- in-chief in this time of testing for our country.

In his years in Washington, Senator Kerry has been one vote of 100 in the United States Senate and fortunately, on matters of national security, he was very often in the minority but the presidency is an entirely different proposition.

The president always casts the deciding vote and the Senator from Massachusetts has given us ample doubts about his judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security.

The American people will have a clear choice in the election of 2004, at least as clear as any since the election of 1984. In more than three years as president, George W. Bush has built a national security record of his own.

America has come to know the president after one of the worst days in our history. He saw America through tragedy. He has kept the nation's enemies in desperate flight and under his leadership our country has once again led the armies of liberation freeing 50 million souls from tyranny and making our nation and the world more secure.

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