Cheney Blasts Kerry During Oregon Visit

Vice President Dick Cheney (search) told supporters Friday that Democrat John Kerry (search), a senator from the Northeast, doesn't understand their needs.

"He says he's in touch with the West. He must mean western Massachusetts," Cheney said.

The vice president criticized Kerry for his position on a bill Cheney said was aimed at "keeping forests healthier and communities safer." Neither Kerry nor running mate John Edwards (search) were present for the vote. Bush signed the measure into law in December.

"Sen. Kerry did not support the Healthy Forests Act when it came time to vote," Cheney said. "Now, Sen. Kerry says he likes a lot of the parts of the law. That makes one thing clear: it's not only wildfires that shift with the wind."

The Kerry campaign responded that the Bush administration hasn't fully funded the Healthy Forests Act as they had proposed. "They left firefighters out to dry this summer," said Laura Capps, a Kerry-Edwards spokeswoman. She said the Democrats worked with western governors to put together a forest management plan that emphasized protecting communities.

Cheney and his wife, Lynne, made a beeline for Republican territory in the eastern part of Oregon from the party's convention in New York. In 2000, Al Gore won Oregon but Bush carried Yumatilla County, where Cheney spoke, 2-1.

The vice president trumpeted Bush's second-term agenda, pledging to "continue our pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda." Cheney said the ticket will "make the Bush tax cuts permanent," "work to end lawsuit abuse," enact medical liability reform and put together "a comprehensive energy policy."

Of the Democrats, Cheney said: "Their big idea for the economy: raise our taxes," as the crowd booed.

In his 30-minute speech before a GOP-friendly crowd, Cheney ignored Kerry's criticism a day earlier in which the Democrat accused both the vice president and the president of avoiding service in Vietnam and being "unfit to lead the nation."

Responding to the comment, Anne Womack, Cheney's spokeswoman, said: "The Republicans just came out of a really exciting positive convention in which President Bush laid out an aggressive agenda for next four years. Senator Kerry's only response is to lash out and make personal attacks about the past. We think this election is about the future."

Cheney's was traveling to Nevada later Friday before heading to New Mexico on Saturday, two other battleground states.