Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday it was “hogwash” to suggest that President Bush’s credibility was on the line because of mistakes made in Iraq.
Cheney acknowledged that the situation in Iraq was very unstable but said toppling Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do. He said he trusted Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, saying he had demonstrated a willingness to take on lawbreakers regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliations.
“The critics have not suggested a policy — they haven’t put anything in place,” Cheney said in an occasionally testy televised interview with CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer.
“All they’ve recommended is to redeploy or to withdraw our forces. The fact is, we can complete the task in Iraq. We’re going to do it. We’ve got (Lt. Gen. David) Petraeus — Gen. Petraeus taking over. It is a good strategy. It will work. But we have to have the stomach to finish the task.”
Cheney bristled when asked to respond to critics who question his daughter Mary’s decision to have a baby and raise it with her female partner. “I think you’re out of line with that question,” replied Cheney, who said he was delighted about having a sixth grandchild.
The vice president said he does not think Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton would make a very good president “because she’s a Democrat.”
“I don’t agree with her philosophically and from a policy standpoint,” he said.
Cheney said he believes Osama bin Laden is alive, but would not speculate about whether he might be hiding in Afghanistan, Pakistan or along their shared border. “I don’t want to be that precise,” Cheney said.
The vice president said passage of a Senate resolution opposing Bush’s decision to send more troops to Iraq would not change the administration’s new strategy in Iraq.
“The Congress has control over the purse strings. They have the right, obviously, if they want, to cut off funding,” Cheney said.
“But in terms of this effort, the president has made his decision. We’ve consulted extensively with them. We’ll continue to consult with the Congress. But the fact of the matter is, we need to get the job done.”
The vice president said the biggest mistake the United States has made in the war was underestimating the psychological effect the Saddam regime had on Iraqi citizens.
“I think we underestimated the extent to which 30 years of Saddam’s rule had really hammered the population, especially the Shia population, into submissiveness,” he said. “It was very hard for them to stand up and take responsibility in part because anybody who had done that in the past had had their heads chopped off.”