Vice President Dick Cheney, who had been laying low for several weeks, emerged Wednesday at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel with a speech designed to bolster confidence in the stock market and in the administration's war on terror.

The vice president told the nonpartisan Commonwealth Club of San Francisco that the administration believes the economy "is poised for sustained economic growth without inflation."

Using revised figures released last week that showed the U.S. economy began shrinking in the first quarter of 2001, rather than in the third, as previously thought, Cheney argued that the Bush administration inherited an economic downturn and has since taken aggressive action to get the economy back on track.

"The rebate checks, the additional rate reductions on tax day, and the stimulus package," he said, "have all helped to turn three quarters of decline into three quarters of positive economic growth by leaving more money in the hands that earned it -- the American people."

The vice president also laid the foundation, at least rhetorically, for an aggressive campaign against terrorists and regimes that possess weapons of mass destruction -- in other words, Iraq.

"At all times, at every turn, we will press on because the stakes could not be greater," Cheney emphasized. "Deliverable weapons in the hands of terrorists would expose this nation and the civilized world to the worst of horrors, and we will not allow it. We will not live at the mercy of terrorists or terror regimes."

The vice president's arrival was greeted by protesters who argued that the threat of war with Iraq was part of the president and vice president's strategy to divert attention from their own corporate misdeeds.

The protesters made it into the public-seating area and heckled Cheney as a "corporate crook" before being escorted out. About 100 demonstrators gathered outside, met by an equal number of police and Secret Service agents.

During the question-and-answer period after his speech, Cheney refused to take questions about possible accounting irregularities at Halliburton, the oil-services company he once led. He stated he was not at liberty to comment on the subject of a pending Securities and Exchange Commission investigation.

The vice president then left for California's Central Valley, headed to a fund-raiser for State Sen. Dick Monteith, the Republican contender for the House seat now held by Rep. Gary Condit, who lost the Democratic primary for his own district.

Fox News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.