CARSON, CALIF. — CARSON, Calif. - The Bush and Kerry camps' long-distance clash over statements about war continued yesterday, as Vice President Dick Cheney mocked the Democratic nominee for offering to fight a "more sensitive" war on terrorism.
"America has been in too many wars for any of our wishes, but not a one of them was won by being sensitive," Cheney told an audience of veterans in Dayton, Ohio.
While the Democratic nominee himself largely stayed out of this battle - unlike the past week's cross-country squabbling over the decision to invade Iraq - Kerry's aides were quick to respond by bringing up another war: Vietnam.
"Dick Cheney was so sensitive [that] he said he had other priorities than serving in the military during Vietnam," said Kerry spokesman David Wade, referring to the vice president's past comments on his multiple deferments from the draft.
"Has Dick Cheney really reached so desperate a new low that he's questioning a decorated combat veteran's toughness?"
Responding to a shouted question, Kerry said the remarks indicated the Bush-Cheney ticket "can only be negative. They have nothing to say about the future vision of America." He declined to elaborate on what he meant by a "more sensitive" war.
The dispute stems from Kerry's appearance last week before a group of minority journalists. He said: "I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history."
Cheney argued that while President Bush has gone on the offensive to prevent terrorists from killing thousands more Americans, Kerry has objected to the tactics.
"Those who threaten us and kill innocents around the world do not need to be treated more sensitively," Cheney said. "They need to be destroyed."
"The men who beheaded Daniel Pearl and Paul Johnson will not be impressed by our sensitivity. As our opponents see it, the problem isn't the thugs and murderers that we face, but our attitude."
Kerry aides pointed out that Bush used the same word before the same audience a day later: "Now in terms of the balance between running down intelligence and bringing people to justice, obviously we need to be very sensitive on that."
They said Kerry referred to the international opposition aroused by the Iraq war as well as the need to promote American values among Muslims suspicious of U.S. intentions.
While Kerry refrained from counterattacks, his campaign trotted out several prominent surrogates to fire shots for him. A group of 10 retired generals and admirals issued a statement on the Democrat's behalf.
Retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark accused Cheney of "a cheap shot unworthy of the office of vice president."