Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards on Sunday accused House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) of stooping "to the politics of fear" when he said al Qaeda terrorists may launch another terrorist attack to swing the Nov. 2 election in Democrat John F. Kerry's favor.
Hastert's comments, at a fundraiser Saturday night in his home state of Illinois, were reminiscent of recent remarks by Vice President Cheney that Edwards has called "un-American."
Cheney, campaigning for President Bush's reelection, recently told supporters that terrorists will strike again "if we make the wrong choice" on Election Day. He clarified the remarks in an interview two days later.
Edwards said Hastert had joined the "fear-mongering choir."
"One clear sign of weakness and failed leadership is when a politician stoops to the politics of fear," he said, campaigning near Philadelphia. "Last night, he said something to the effect that al Qaeda wants John Kerry to be president of the United States.
"Let me say this in the simplest possible terms: When John Kerry is president of the United States, we will find al Qaeda where they are and crush them before they can do damage to the American people," Edwards said.
Hastert's remarks about the terrorist network that is blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks came just before a $150-a-plate GOP fundraiser in DeKalb, Ill., that featured Cheney.
"I don't have data or intelligence to tell me one thing or another, [but] I would think they would be more apt to go [for] somebody who would file a lawsuit with the World Court or something rather than respond with troops," Hastert said of Kerry.
Asked by reporters whether he believes al Qaeda could operate better with Kerry in the White House, Hastert replied: "That's my opinion, yes."
"Instead of attacking Republicans, John Edwards should help John Kerry explain to the American people his inconsistent and contradictory positions on national security, intelligence and other defense issues," Hastert spokesman John McGovern said Sunday.
Edwards said Bush and his allies are continuing to play politics with the Sept. 11 attacks.
"They want to scare the American people, but they will pay a price in November," he said. "None of us should be surprised by this, because just two or three weeks ago we heard what Dick Cheney said about this."
Cheney was in Des Moines on Sept. 7 when he told supporters: "It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again, that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 mindset, if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts, and that we're not really at war. I think that would be a terrible mistake for us."
Two days later, he told the Cincinnati Enquirer he was trying to say that the next president has to anticipate more terrorist attacks.