updated 9/29/2004 1:59:15 PM ET 2004-09-29T17:59:15

Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday the United States needed to act in Iraq, and he questioned whether John Kerry would have the commitment or judgment to make such decisions.

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“The idea that somehow we could pull back and simply sit behind our oceans and not aggressively be going after the terrorists and those who sponsor terrorists, I think misreads the situation completely,” Cheney said.

The vice president, appearing at what was billed as a business leader round-table, spent most of his time Wednesday defending the Bush administration’s foreign policy and criticizing Kerry, the Massachusetts senator opposing President Bush in the November election.

He said Kerry would not be as resolute a commander in chief and renewed the Bush campaign’s contention that Kerry has repeatedly switched his position on Iraq.

“I never challenged his patriotism,” Cheney said. “I challenge his judgment.”

The Bush campaign has sought to portray Kerry as constantly shifting his position on Iraq, and Cheney did so again in comments alluding to Thursday night’s first debate between the candidates.

“I’m waiting to see what he will say Thursday night,” Cheney said with a chuckle. “It’ll be interesting.”

The hourlong event was held at a country-themed restaurant on the edge of the Twin Cities. A dozen invited small business owners surrounded Cheney and his wife, Lynne.

Across the street, four relatives of a Minnesota Marine killed in Iraq, Lance Cpl. Levi Angell, 20, of Cloquet, protested.

Angell’s grandmother, Lila, called the war a “useless, needless fix we’re in.”

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