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Inside Politics

Cheney hits Kerry's 'habit of indecision'

Veep accepts nomination for second term

By Sean Loughlin
CNN Washington Bureau

Vice President Dick Cheney offered a harsh critique of Sen. John Kerry's record on Wednesday night.
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Accepting his party's nomination for a second term, Vice President Dick Cheney took aim at John Kerry on Wednesday night, asserting the White House hopeful's "habit of indecision" would poorly serve the nation in a time of war.

"On the question of America's role in the world, the differences between Senator Kerry and President Bush are the sharpest, and the stakes for the country are the highest," Cheney told cheering delegates to the Republican National Convention and guests gathered at Madison Square Garden.

"History has shown that a strong and purposeful America is vital to preserving freedom and keeping us safe. Yet time and again, Senator Kerry has made the wrong call on national security."

Cheney, 63, offered warm words of support for his boss, George W. Bush, calling him a man of "loyalty and kindness" and contrasting the president's "clear message" with Kerry's "message of confusion."

Cheney continued his role on the campaign trail of blasting Kerry, assailing the Democratic nominee as a politician who has a "pattern" of reversing course on a number of issues, including the war in Iraq.

Cheney resurrected a line that Democrats used at their convention in July when they spoke of "two Americas" -- those who have benefited under Bush and those who have fallen behind.

"Senator Kerry says he sees two Americas," Cheney said. "It makes the whole thing mutual -- America sees two John Kerrys."

Cheney's critique was catnip for the party faithful, who booed loudly as the vice president ran down a list of some of Kerry's votes, including opposition to the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

"Senator Kerry denounces American action when other countries don't approve -- as if the whole object of our foreign policy was to please a few persistent critics. ... George W. Bush will never seek a permission slip to defend the American people," Cheney said, one of many lines that elicited a roar of approval from the crowd.

The delegates chanted "flip-flop" and waved their hands when Cheney pointed to Kerry's vote for the war against Iraq, but a subsequent vote against a spending bill for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Kerry did, however, support an alternative measure that would have tied the spending bill to rolling back tax cuts for the wealthy.

Cheney took note of Kerry's military service in Vietnam. "We honor him for it," Cheney said, making no mention of harsh commercials run by an anti-Kerry veterans group supported by wealthy Republican donors.

Instead, Cheney focused on Kerry's career as the junior senator from Massachusetts, assailing his stance on national security matters.

"A senator can be wrong for 20 years without consequence to the nation," Cheney said. "But a president, a president, always casts the deciding vote. And in this time of challenge, America needs -- and America has -- a president we can count on to get it right."

As loved as Cheney is by conservatives, he is scorned by liberals. In interviews about Cheney, Democrats often bring up his former role as CEO of Halliburton, the oil-service giant that has won lucrative no-bid contracts for work in Iraq and whose accounting practices have been the subject of a probe by federal regulators.

Polls show that Cheney is a polarizing figure in politics. A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found that support for Cheney was split. Forty-five percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of Cheney, compared with 44 percent who said they held a favorable opinion.

Cheney's speech, delivered before a packed convention, included a glowing assessment of Bush's first term. He described "years of achievement," marked by a strong and uncompromising stand against terrorism and a strengthening economy.

"When this convention concludes tomorrow night, we will go forth with confidence in our cause, and in the man who leads it," Cheney said. "By leaving no doubt where we stand, and asking all Americans to join us, we will see our cause to victory."

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