Cheney Clashes With Pelosi, McCain

Cheney Pelosi side by side CBS/AP

Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday harshly criticized Democrats' attempts to thwart President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq, saying their approach would "validate the al Qaeda strategy." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fired back that Cheney was questioning critics' patriotism.

"I hope the president will repudiate and distance himself from the vice president's remarks," Pelosi said. She said she tried to complain about Cheney to President Bush but could not reach him.

"You cannot say as the president of the United States, 'I welcome disagreement in a time of war,' and then have the vice president of the United States go out of the country and mischaracterize a position of the speaker of the House and in a manner that says that person in that position of authority is acting against the national security of our country," the speaker said.

The quarrel began in Tokyo, where Cheney used an interview to criticize Pelosi and Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., over their plan to place restrictions on Bush's request for an additional $93 billion for the Iraq war to make it difficult or impossible to send 21,500 extra troops to Iraq.

"I think if we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all we will do is validate the al Qaeda strategy," the vice president told ABC News. "The al Qaeda strategy is to break the will of the American people ... try to persuade us to throw in the towel and come home, and then they win because we quit."

In the interview, Cheney also said Britain's plans to withdraw about 1,600 troops from Iraq — while the United States adds more troops — was a positive step. "I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well," the vice president said.

Pelosi, at a news conference in San Francisco, said Cheney's criticism of Democrats was "beneath the dignity of the debate we're engaged in and a disservice to our men and women in uniform, whom we all support."

"And you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to call the president and tell him I disapprove of what the vice president said," Pelosi said. "It has no place in our debate." Mr. Bush had previously urged her to call him when a member of his administration stepped over the line by questioning Democrats' patriotism, she said.

Later, Pelosi said she had tried to reach the president but was only able to get through to White House chief of staff Josh Bolten.

Bolten said he was certain no one was questioning her patriotism or commitment to national security, she told reporters.

"I said to him perhaps when he saw what the vice president said he might have another comment," Pelosi said. White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said Cheney "was not questioning anyone's patriotism." But she said Bush and Cheney believe that Pelosi and Murtha's "position to immediately pull out our troops would be harmful to our national security and that it is the wrong strategy to pursue."

As for Cheney's assertion that the partial British pullout is a sign that things are going well in Iraq, Pelosi said: "If it's going so well, we'd like to withdraw our troops as well."

Cheney on Wednesday also challenged GOP presidential hopeful John McCain's assertion that Donald H. Rumsfeld was one of the country's worst defense secretaries.

"John's entitled to his opinion. I just think he's wrong," said Cheney, a friend of Rumsfeld. He also disclosed that the Arizona senator had apologized to him for a previous comment that the vice president had "badly served" Mr. Bush on Iraq.

"John said some nasty things about me the other day, and then next time he saw me, ran over to me and apologized. Maybe he'll apologize to Rumsfeld," Cheney told ABC News.

At a campaign event in Los Angeles, McCain said he stood by his remarks about Rumsfeld. He did not mention the vice president, and his campaign declined to comment on Cheney's remarks.

  • Jennifer Hoar

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