Vice President Cheney spent Wednesday campaigning in eastern Pennsylvania, taking a bus tour from Wilkes-Barre to Hazleton, Pottsville and Bloomsburg. In his speeches, Cheney stayed almost entirely on message: the threat of terrorism and how the Bush administration is best able to control it.
The trip was Cheney's 14th to Pennsylvania since taking office, and he was greeted by enthusiastic, though not always large, crowds at events and along the bus route. Professionally printed placards saying "Sportsmen for Bush" and "Veterans for Bush" were common.
During the day, the vice president did not mention the controversy he provoked on Tuesday when he said at a town hall meeting in Iowa that he personally thought that the states should determine what constitutes marriage, as opposed to a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage -- a measure supported by President Bush.
Cheney was introduced in Wilkes-Barre by his wife, Lynne, as well as by his daughter Elizabeth, who was traveling with three of her four young children. Cheney's daughter Mary, who is gay, was also on the trip.
The tour went through hardscrabble coal towns with boarded-up shops and empty houses in what is traditionally Democratic territory. Although many people waved American flags and applauded the motorcade, a fair number of others made obscene gestures and booed or held Kerry signs.
At the town hall meeting in Wilkes-Barre and at school gymnasium rallies in Pottsville and Bloomsburg, Cheney relied on the same speech, which emphasized the administration's actions after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Although he pointed to successes in Afghanistan and elsewhere against terrorist networks, he spoke little about the war in Iraq or about Osama bin Laden and some of his top lieutenants still being at large. Cheney did say, however, that "most of the planners of the 9/11 attacks have been captured or killed, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the terrorist attacks."
Cheney criticized Kerry for not understanding that those attacks changed the way the nation should defend itself. Strongly advocating the Bush doctrine of preemptive attacks, Cheney said: "We must act against gathering dangers and not wait to be attacked again."
In a lighter moment, the Cheney tour stopped at a farm stand owned by Ray Levan, 65, in the small town of Catawissa. Cheney and his wife went to buy fruit and vegetables, while daughters Mary and Elizabeth went with the Cheney grandchildren to watch cows being fed.
The Cheneys purchased nine apples, five large tomatoes, three green peppers and a dozen ears of corn. Cheney pulled a $10 bill from his pocket and gave it to Levan. Asked by a reporter whether the $10 covered the cost of the produce, Levan indicated that it did not. But he said it was an "honor to sell the fruits and vegetables to the vice president, even if at a discount."