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Cheney Sets Sights On Kerry

Vice President Dick Cheney makes the case for President Bush's re-election Wednesday night and is expected to take aim at Democrat John Kerry's "confusion of conviction." Anti-Bush protesters, meanwhile, staged a three-mile long "unemployment line" to protest the president's economic policies.

Cheney's speech to the Republican National Convention sets the stage for Mr. Bush's own acceptance speech Thursday, the final night of the four-day convention. The president was to arrive in New York late Wednesday for a meeting with firefighters, making the connection to the Sept. 11 attacks and subsequent fight against terrorism that has defined his presidency.

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Cheney will contrast Mr. Bush's "demonstrated leadership and decisiveness versus Senator Kerry's confusion of conviction – both in foreign and domestic policy – that he's demonstrated during his 20 years in the Senate," Cheney spokeswoman Anne Womack said.

Cheney also plans to discuss the importance of public schools, a vibrant economy and improved health care system, Womack said, and will argue that these things are not possible unless the nation is safe and secure.

Tuesday night, before a roaring audience of delegates at Madison Square Garden, Mr. Bush was lauded by his wife, Laura, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a man of strength and compassion.

Mr. Bush "doesn't flinch, doesn't waver, does not back down," the Austrian-born former actor said. Added Mrs. Bush: "You can count on him, especially in a crisis."

Polls show Mr. Bush and Kerry are virtually tied. The election is Nov. 2.

Kerry was in Nashville, Tenn., on Wednesday speaking to the same American Legion gathering that Mr. Bush addressed the day before. Noting that the president said earlier in the week that the terror war could not be won, Kerry said, "With the right policies, this is a war we can win."

In a television interview that aired Monday, Mr. Bush said the terror war couldn't be won. He amended the comment in his speech to the American Legion, saying it could be won.

Kerry's appearance broke a tradition in which presidential candidates have refrained from campaigning during the other party's convention. He used the occasion to again criticize Mr. Bush's Iraq policy.

"I would never have gone to war without a plan to win the peace," Kerry said.

Anti-Bush demonstrations continued in New York. Thousands of protesters waving pink fliers reading "The Next Pink Slip Might Be Yours!" formed a line from Wall Street to the convention site. The peaceful demonstration came a day after police struggled to contain swarms of protesters, eventually arresting nearly 1,000 demonstrators.

Inside the convention hall, AIDS demonstrators disrupted a Republican youth gathering shortly after Mr. Bush's twin daughters left the stage.

Jenna and Barbara Bush introduced White House chief of staff Andrew Card. As he began speaking, 10 protesters sitting in the crowd jumped up and began blowing whistles and chanting "Bush kills."

One GOP supporter was slightly injured. Daniel Suhr, 20, of Milwaukee, said he was punched in the head by a protester. He had a cut near his temple and the side of his face was reddened.

Police removed the protesters, including a young woman hoisted out by two officers – one at her shoulders and one at her knees.

More than 1,500 people have been arrested in convention-related protests since late last week.

With news on the economic front more mixed than Republicans had hoped, Cheney and keynote speaker Sen. Zell Miller, a Democrat from Georgia, were expected to talk about Mr. Bush's agenda for creating jobs and encouraging people to own homes and start businesses.

Miller said he would "explain to them why this longtime Democrat, who has never voted for a Republican, by the way, in his life, is voting for this one. And it has to do with the kind of man he is."

While Democrats are peeved at Miller for his speaking role, they plan to focus most of their criticism on Cheney.

"When Dick Cheney takes the stage at the convention, we will be reminding Americans about Dick Cheney's record, not only his abysmal failure as vice president but the sweetheart deals that his administration has cut with the company that he used to lead," said Matt Bennett, a spokesman for the Democrats. Halliburton, the company that was headed by Cheney before he became Mr. Bush's running mate, has a multibillion-dollar contract for work done in Iraq.

On Wednesday, Cheney's wife, Lynne, defended her husband, saying he's been an asset to Mr. Bush.

"I think Dick has, you know, brought just a world of expertise to this job, which he really didn't plan on having, but has enjoyed greatly," Mrs. Cheney told CBS' The Early Show. "I think the president values his advice, and, in the end, I suspect that's the most important audience."

Cheney, 63, who served in President George H.W. Bush's administration as defense secretary, has seen his approval ratings plummet amid persistent questions about his role in promoting the Iraq war and in handling the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

But Mr. Bush has stuck fast by him, even as a new CNN/USA Today/Gallop poll conducted last week showed that 52 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Democrat John Edwards for vice president over Cheney, if they could select the vice president separately.

Asked whether Cheney had given Mr. Bush good advice or bad advice over the past four years, 41 percent answered "good advice," 39 percent answered "bad advice" and 17 percent said they were unsure.

There was some discord in the generally united Republican camp over remarks by Illinois GOP Senate candidate Alan Keyes, who labeled Cheney's lesbian daughter a sinner and called homosexuality "selfish hedonism."

The former talk show host who has made two unsuccessful runs for the White House made the comments Monday night in an interview with Sirius OutQ, a satellite radio station that provides programming aimed at gays and lesbians.

After saying homosexuality is "selfish hedonism,'' Keyes was asked if Mary Cheney fit that description. "Of course she is,'' Keyes replied. "That goes by definition.''

Liz Cheney, Mary's sister, refused to comment Wednesday during an interview on CNN. The Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian organization, denounced Keyes' remark.