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Democrats in Congress Criticize VP Cheney Over Terrorism Remark - 2004-09-08

Democratic lawmakers in Congress have reacted with anger to recent remarks by Vice President Dick Cheney, who says a vote for Democratic candidate John Kerry could leave Americans open to more terrorist attacks.

Mr. Cheney's remark has been condemned by the campaign of Senator John Kerry and his vice presidential running mate, John Edwards.

Tuesday, the vice president said what he called a wrong choice by voters in the presidential election on November 2 might leave the country open to another devastating terrorist attack.

On Capitol Hill, the Democratic minority leader, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, called Mr. Cheney's statement dangerous and urged President Bush to disassociate himself with it.

"It is completely inappropriate for the vice president to, in effect, threaten the American people to be part of instilling fear into our country," she said.

But Mrs. Pelosi's comment at a news conference with other Democratic House leaders was mild in comparison with other Democrats speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives.

One of them was Congressman Ted Strickland, an Ohio Democrat, who angrily accused Mr. Cheney of trying to use fear of terrorism as a tool to divide Americans before election day:

"Does he not understand that at this very moment, and at the moment he spoke, there were Democratic (party) soldiers in Iraq fighting for his freedom, as well as the freedom of all of us? It is shameful, shameful that the vice president would interject such a divisive bit of rhetoric into the public discourse in this country," Mr. Strickland said. "Has he no shame?"

In similarly emotional remarks, Congressman John Lewis, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus (group of African-American lawmakers), called Mr. Cheney's statement outrageous, and he was admonished by a Republican lawmaker presiding over the House:

LEWIS: "The vice president of the United States is preaching the politics of fear. He is trying to scare the American people. We can do better, much better, with the politics of hope, for we are one people, one America, one family, one house. The American family, the American house. Shame on you Mr. Vice President."

SPEAKER: "The member should not address the Vice President in personally offensive terms."

In his response to Mr. Cheney, (Democratic) Vice presidential candidate John Edwards accused the vice president of using scare tactics he said crossed the line. Mr. Edwards added: protecting America from vicious terrorists is not a Democratic or Republican issue.

The White House Wednesday appeared to back away just a bit from Mr. Cheney's remark.

President spokesman Scott McClellan declined in a briefing for reporters to repeat the vice president's exact words, saying only that Mr. Cheney was referring to the differences between President Bush and Senator Kerry on how to approach the war on terror.