Cheney Speech Upsets Westminster Prez

Westminster College's (search) president told his campus he was so "surprised and disappointed" about Vice President Dick Cheney's (search) attacks on John Kerry (search) during a Monday speech that he is inviting the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee to visit for a reply.

Cheney's spokeswoman, Nicolle Devenish, replied that the speech was always intended as a "campaign message event."

President Fletcher Lamkin told The Associated Press that Cheney's staff approached him last week about using Westminster as the backdrop "for a major foreign policy address. Nothing was said about a stump speech."

In a campuswide e-mail after the speech, Lamkin wrote: "I must admit that I was surprised and disappointed that Mr. Cheney chose to step off the high ground and resort to Kerry-bashing for a large portion of his speech."

Devenish said it was unfortunate if the speech came as a surprise to Lamkin, his students or his faculty.

"It was a major foreign policy address," she said, "and it's my understanding that the college was made aware that Senator Kerry's different views on foreign policy would be mentioned throughout."

Reached at home, Lamkin said he splits his ticket as a voter, though the former administrator at West Point said he does tend to be a bit on the conservative side because of his military background.

"I'm pretty independent," he said. "I can't tell you I am for one or the other, I'm not. As a college president, I try to remain someone who has all viewpoints represented on the campus fairly and equally."

Standing in the campus gymnasium where Winston Churchill warned in 1946 of an "Iron Curtain" descending across postwar Europe, Cheney sharply criticized Kerry's Senate votes on defense and intelligence legislation.

"The senator from Massachusetts has given us ample grounds to doubt the judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security," Cheney said.

Lamkin told the AP "we would be naive not to think there would be some politics in an address during an election year, so no, we were not duped." But he added: "The second half of the speech was all about politics and a political stump speech and in that respect it was dissapointing."

Westminster spokesman Mike Odneal said the Bush-Cheney campaign provided television-friendly blue stage curtains, American flags and even the rented chairs for Cheney's audience of several hundred people, including students and Missouri GOP officeholders.

In his post-speech campus e-mail, Lamkin wrote that "in the interest of balance and fairness and integrity, we will strongly encourage Senator Kerry to take advantage of this venue to make his views known as well."

Kerry spokesman Bill Burton said the campaign received Lamkin's e-mail and would consider a visit to Westminster, located in the center of a presidential battleground state.

"There is a great chance that John Kerry wants to stand where Winston Churchill stood. It's just a shame that Dick Cheney would so mar the ground that he stood on to make more dishonest attacks and mislead everyone from the college president down to each student at Westminster," Burton said.