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Cheney hurls 'incompetent' charge back at Democrats

Their protests on domestic wiretaps show they're not capable of handling the war on terror, he says in Orlando.

Associated Press
Published March 25, 2006

ORLANDO - Vice President Dick Cheney blasted Democrats for opposing provisions of the Patriot Act and criticizing President Bush's approval of secret wiretaps for domestic surveillance at a fundraising lunch Friday.

Two days after Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid called Bush dangerously incompetent, Cheney said if Democrats were capable of handling the war on terror, "Then I ought to be singing on American Idol."

"The president and I welcome the debate, because every voter in America needs to know how the leaders of the Democratic Party view the war on terror," he said at the event for Rep. Ric Keller, R-Orlando.

Reid said the United States was failing militarily and economically in Iraq, and questioned why Bush was campaigning for Republicans instead of meeting with leaders in the Middle East.

Cheney defended the wiretaps, which he said the president has reauthorized more than 30 times since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as "essential to the security of the United States."

"Instead of acknowledging the urgent need to track enemy communications in a time of war, some Democrats in Congress have decided that the president is the enemy, and that the terrorist surveillance program is grounds for censuring the president," Cheney said. "This outrageous proposition that we ought to protect the al-Qaida ability to communicate as they plot against America poses a key test for Democratic leaders. Do they support the extreme, counterproductive antics of a few, or do they support a lawful program vital to the security of this nation?"

The Orlando speech was one of several around the nation for Cheney, who along with Bush continues to rake in millions at campaign stops despite low approval ratings in polls. Cheney also planned to visit Jacksonville Friday.

The 200-person event raised $225,000 for Keller, who faces two challengers for his Central Florida seat.

At a news conference before the speech, Democratic challenger Charlie Stuart said Keller voted for increasing the national debt and against veterans' benefits.

Stuart's campaign has raised about $360,000, a shade more than Keller netted from Cheney's visit alone.

Stuart, a former office furniture executive and current business consultant, is expecting former Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham to campaign with him Sunday.

Democratic Orange County Commissioner Homer Hartage also is running.

[Last modified March 25, 2006, 01:50:17]

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