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The Race to the White House

Cheney Blames Democrats for Nation's Pain at the Gas Pump

August 04, 2004|From Times Wire Services

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday that rising consumption and decreasing domestic oil production have led to high gasoline prices but also blamed his Democratic opponents and their opposition to the Bush administration's energy policies.

He accused Senate Democrats of blocking a Bush energy plan that would increase petroleum drilling and energy conservation and provide new tax breaks and other incentives to spur exploration and production.

"John Kerry and John Edwards voted no," Cheney said. "It's another area where I think there is a significant difference."

Cheney advocated increasing domestic oil production in wildlife areas in Alaska and other regions that are now off-limits to development.

Cheney also said that Democratic presidential nominee Kerry would not fight terrorists as aggressively as the Bush administration.

"We have to go on offense, we have to go after the terrorists wherever they reside," Cheney said. "My impression is sometimes the other team is stuck in a pre-9/11 mentality and they haven't made the transition."

Polls show President Bush and Massachusetts Sen. Kerry are essentially tied in Arkansas, a state Bush won over then-Vice President Al Gore in 2000 by 50,172 votes. The Kerry campaign was quick to refute Cheney's comments.

"Just because they say it doesn't make it so," Kerry spokesman Phil Singer said. "Unlike George Bush, John Kerry has been very aggressive and direct in coming out in favor of the 9/11 commission's recommendations so that we can make the country safer."

In a conference call arranged by the Kerry campaign, Democratic U.S. Reps. John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina and Sander M. Levin of Michigan said Cheney's 10-year term in Congress included few accomplishments.

"It's barren of any significant legislative landmarks," Spratt said. Cheney, who represented Wyoming in the House of Representatives from 1979 to 1989, voted against the Head Start program for low-income children, gun control and a ban on "cop killer" bullets, the lawmakers said.

The lawmakers said they were raising the issue in response to Republican criticism of Kerry's record.

"They made John Kerry's record an issue. We're responding by saying you don't have standing, given your record," Spratt said.

"We're running on our record," White House spokeswoman Anne Womack said in response to the Democratic lawmakers. "They're running away from theirs."

Cheney spoke from a podium that was in sight of a handful of protesters who marched outside the Hot Springs Convention Center, some carrying signs that included a reference to Bush, Cheney and Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft as "the axis of evil."

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