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Cheney Optimistic About New Iraq Report

Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday a pivotal September report on the war in Iraq is likely to show "significant progress" — putting himself ahead of President Bush, who has refused to speculate on what the report will say.

Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are required to report to Congress by Sept. 15 on progress in Iraq. Their evaluation is expected to shape the administration's next move on the war, including decisions on how many U.S. troops will stay in Iraq, and for how long.

"The reports I'm hearing from people whose views I respect indicate that the Petraeus plan is in fact producing results," Cheney told CNN's Larry King in an interview to be telecast Tuesday night. "Now, admittedly, I've been on one side of this argument from the beginning."

The White House has been touting encouraging signs of progress since Bush ordered a troop buildup in Iraq in January. Yet Bush has deferred comment on the upcoming report itself.

"I don't want to prejudge what David is going to say," Bush told reporters as recently as Monday.

Discussing his low public approval rating, Cheney said he just doesn't worry about it. He said he would like to be liked, but only up to a point.

"If you wanted to be liked, I should never have gotten into politics in the first place," he said. "Remember, success for a politician is 50 percent plus one. You don't have to have everybody on board."

Cheney would not comment on whether Bush should eventually pardon his friend and former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Bush commuted a 30-month jail sentence for Libby, who was convicted of lying and obstructing justice in a probe into the leak of a CIA operative's identity.

Libby was left with a $250,000 fine and two years' probation.

"I think having the commutation of sentence decided has been a huge relief for him, but he still has a very difficult road," Cheney said. "He's got — obviously he needs to find work. He's got legal bills. He carries the burden of having been convicted. All those are not easy problems."

Libby's friends and supporters have raised more than $5 million to cover legal fees and were continuing to raise money even after his sentence was commuted. Given the scope of his legal defense and top attorneys he chose to represent him, Libby's bills are expected to well exceed the $5 million raised.

On other topics, Cheney:

  • Agreed with a stinging letter that Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, sent to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner. Edelman wrote that Clinton reinforced enemy propaganda by raising questions about an eventual U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. "I thought it was a good letter," Cheney said.

    Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines said Cheney's remarks were at odds with conciliatory comments made last week by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. "It seems the right hand doesn't know what the far-right hand is doing," Reines said. "Senator Clinton calls on President Bush to set the record straight."

  • Declined to criticize Iraqi lawmakers for adjourning from work until September. "It's better than taking two months off, which was their original plan," Cheney said. "Our Congress of course takes the month of August off to go back home, so I don't think we can say that they shouldn't go home at all."
  • Said he had no idea what he would do when his term ends in 2009. He said he would "probably not" work in the administration of another president.
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