Cheney Questions Kerry Leadership Skills

Vice President Dick Cheney (search) criticized John Kerry (search) for telling National Guard veterans Thursday that he'll always tell the truth to the American people, saying "true leadership requires the ability to make a decision."

"These are not times for leaders who shift with the political winds. America faces a choice on Nov. 2 between a strong and steadfast president and his opponent, who seems to adopt a new position every day," he told about 1,500 people at Reno's convention center as the crowd chanted "flip-flop."

Cheney portrayed Kerry as indecisive on Iraq, noting the senator's vote against $87 billion for troops and reconstruction after voting to give President Bush the authority to go to war against Saddam Hussein.

Throughout the campaign, Kerry has faulted Bush's handling of the war, saying he went into Iraq with too few troops and without a plan to win the peace.

"Senator Kerry said today that leadership starts with telling the truth, but the American people also know that true leadership requires the ability to make a decision," Cheney said.

"True leadership is sticking with the decision in the face of political pressure and true leadership is standing for your principles regardless of your audience or your most recent political advisers," he said.

Bush makes a decision and sticks with it, Cheney said, regardless of the fallout.

"Senator Kerry today said he would always be straight with the American people on the good days and on the bad days," the vice president said. "In Senator Kerry's case, that means when the headlines are good he's for the war, and when his poll numbers are bad, he's against it."

Outside the convention center, a crowd of about 150 chanted "two more months" and waved at traffic with anti-Bush signs that said "Stop Mad Cowboy Disease" and "Stupid? Rich? Vote Bush." Inside, Cheney was backed by a large American flag and supporters with such signs as "Flush the Johns" and "Thanks for the tax cut."

Earlier in Albuquerque, N.M., Cheney said one of the campaign's "great mysteries" is what policy the Democrat would pursue. "He's been all over the lot on Iraq," Cheney said.

Cheney contrasted Kerry's positions — his vote in favor of going to war, his criticism of Bush's handling of the war and his vote against the $87 billion — with Bush, who maintains that toppling Saddam was the right thing to do, despite the war's unpopularity at home, continued violence in Iraq and a U.S. war death toll now above 1,000.

"One of the debates that this campaign is all about is that choice between the policy the president has laid out and pursued now for three years and the policy that John Kerry pursues," Cheney told about a dozen people at a round-table discussion. "One of the great mysteries of this campaign is, 'What policy will John Kerry pursue?'"

Bush doesn't blow with the winds, Cheney said. "And that's exactly the quality I think you want in a president — the ability to make those tough decisions, to stick with them, and to carry through, even when the going gets tough," he said.