DES MOINES, Iowa – Sen. Tom Harkin (search) pushed the name-calling in the presidential race to a new level, calling Vice President Dick Cheney a coward for not serving in Vietnam and cowardly for his criticism of John Kerry (search).
Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, recently said that if elected he would pursue a more effective and "more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history."
Cheney, in campaign speeches, has been mocking that reference to sensitivity.
Harkin, D-Iowa and a former Navy fighter pilot, said Monday, "It just outrages me that someone who got five deferments during Vietnam and said he had 'other priorities' at that time would say that."
He said President Bush and Cheney are "running scared because John Kerry has a war record and they don't." He said of Cheney, "What he is doing and what he is saying is cowardly. The actions are cowardly."
"When I hear this coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil," said Harkin. "He'll be tough, but he'll be tough with someone else's kid's blood."
Republican National Committee spokesman David James dismissed the criticism as shrill and negative.
The Democrats, during their recent national convention, made much of Kerry's service and battle awards in Vietnam. Cheney received five student and marriage deferments of military service. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard.