Cheney Slams Kerry on Iraq War Vote

Vice President Dick Cheney (search) on Tuesday criticized Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) for voting for the war in Iraq but against the bill funding it.

Cheney, in Sioux Falls to stump for U.S. House candidate Larry Diedrich (search), said Kerry's initial explanation that he voted both for and against the funding, then explaining that his decision was complicated, was not acceptable.

"Funding American troops in combat should never be a complicated question," Cheney said in a speech.

Tuesday's event at the Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls began with a late-afternoon VIP reception in which couples paid $2,000 to have their picture taken with the vice president.

About 200 people attended the $100 per-person general session, with Sioux Falls Mayor Dave Munson, Gov. Mike Rounds and Diedrich setting the stage for Dick and Lynne Cheney.

Dick Cheney acknowledged Diedrich after taking the podium, saying he thought "Larry would make a superb governor," then corrected himself to say congressman, blaming the error on too many campaign stops.

Cheney said Diedrich stands for low taxes, job growth, strong families and a prosperous agricultural sector, and he's confident voters will send him to Washington in November.

"The people of South Dakota left no doubt that they considered Larry a principled, serious leader with everything it takes to serve this great state in the U.S. Congress," Cheney said.

Diedrich lost a June special election for the state's U.S. House seat to Democrat Stephanie Herseth by less than 3,000 votes. The two and Libertarian candidate Terry Begay meet Nov. 2 on the general election ballot.

Cheney said as a former Wyoming congressman, he understands what it's like to be a state's lone representative in the U.S. House.

"It was a small delegation, but I always added, Larry, it was quality," he said to Diedrich.

Cheney also joked about his now-official vice presidential opponent, Sen. John Edwards.

"People kept telling me Senator Edwards got picked because he has good looks, great charm, great hair," Cheney said. "I said, 'How do you think I got the job?"'

The visit marks Cheney's second to South Dakota this year. He raised $250,000 in March for Republican U.S. Senate candidate John Thune, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle.

Lynne Cheney also made a Rapid City stop in May on behalf of Diedrich.

Thune's campaign manager Dick Wadhams attended the event for Thune, who was at a community picnic in Mobridge, Wadhams said.

Diedrich said after the event he was honored to have the vice president come to South Dakota on his behalf, but he's not sure if it will result in any kind of bounce in the polls.

"South Dakotans in the end will make a decision based upon who the candidates are rather than who came in," he said.

Cheney's speech Tuesday echoed many of the same themes he stressed during his March visit.

He cited President Bush's successes in foreign affairs with bringing down the Taliban, destroying its terrorist training camps and removing Saddam Hussein from power.

He credited the administration with creating more than 1.5 million new jobs and passing tax cuts to put more money in the hands of the citizens.

"This is a strong economy and it's getting stronger every day," Cheney said. "The Bush tax cuts are working."

Diedrich said Cheney laid out a solid platform and did a good job contrasting the Bush administration with the potential Kerry administration.

"I was in lock step with everything he talked about tonight," Diedrich said.

Diedrich said he would hate to grade Herseth's two-month performance in Congress.

But he said he feels if he had been elected, he could have gotten South Dakota included in a transportation bill and lobbied for more funding of the Lewis and Clark Rural Water System.

He said the $17.5 million the House approved for the project is not enough money to make it a reality soon enough for Sioux Falls.

"It's not just what you do, but it's what doesn't get done that often times is missed in the story," Diedrich said.

Russ Levsen, office spokesman for Herseth, questioned Diedrich's understanding of the transportation bill issue Tuesday night.

He said the House already passed the bill's initial version before the June 1 special election, and South Dakota was left out because of the state's vacant House seat.

"Since taking office, Representative Herseth has been working hard to secure commitments from key conferees to ensure South Dakota projects are included in the final bill," Levsen said.

Levsen said Herseth is also proud of the role she played in the Lewis and Clark bill and will continue to advocate full funding of the project.

Cheney in his 30-minute speech also took shots at Democrats for blocking judicial nominees and opposing Bush's energy plan in the senate.

Kerry campaign spokesman Phil Singer on Tuesday dismissed the president's energy plan as a hodgepodge favoring special interests.

"The energy bill that the vice president is talking about has been criticized by both Republican and Democrats as a giveaway to special interests, more for people in the board room than people who are trying to fill their gas tanks," Singer said. "This is a disingenuous, misleading charge by a vice president whose credibility is running out by the minute."