DES MOINES, Iowa — Vice President Dick Cheney says the United States will risk another terrorist attack if voters make the wrong choice on Election Day, suggesting Sen. John Kerry would follow a pre-Sept. 11 policy of reacting defensively.
“It’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we’ll get hit again and we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States,” Cheney told supporters at a town-hall meeting Tuesday.
Democrats reacted quickly.
“Dick Cheney’s scare tactics crossed the line today, showing once again that he and George Bush will do anything and say anything to save their jobs,” said a statement issued by vice presidential candidate John Edwards.
“Protecting America from vicious terrorists is not a Democratic or Republican issue and Dick Cheney and George Bush should know that. John Kerry and I will keep America safe, and we will not divide the American people to do it.”
If Kerry were elected president, Cheney said the nation would risk falling back into a “pre-9/11 mind-set” that terrorist attacks are criminal acts that require a reactive approach. Instead, he said Bush’s offensive approach works to root out terrorists where they plan and train, and pressure countries that harbor terrorists.
Cheney pointed to Afghanistan as a success story in pursuing terrorists although the Sept. 11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden, remains at large. In Iraq, the vice president said, the United States has taken out a leader who used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and harbored other terrorists.
“Saddam Hussein today is in jail, which is exactly where he belongs,” Cheney said.
Bush on Tuesday accused Kerry of changing positions on the Iraq war by adopting the language of one-time presidential candidate Howard Dean when Kerry called the conflict “the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Kerry “woke up yesterday morning with yet another new position, and this one’s not even his own; it is that of his one-time rival, Howard Dean,” Bush told thousands of supporters Tuesday at a rally in Lee’s Summit, Mo., a suburb of Kansas City.
Bush said Kerry “even used the same words Howard Dean did back when he supposedly disagreed with him. ... Senator Kerry flip-flops. We were right to make America safer by removing Saddam Hussein from power.”
NBC’s Priya David and The Associated Press contributed to this report.