- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2007

Vice President Dick Cheney said he is “willing to bet” that Democrats will acquiesce to the White House’s insistence on a supplemental-spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan that does not include a timetable for withdrawal or binding benchmarks on the Iraqi government.

“I think the Congress will pass clean legislation,” Mr. Cheney said in an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation.” When asked what would happen if Democrats don’t pass a bill the White House accepts, the vice president remained optimistic.

“I’m willing to bet the other way, that in fact they will,” he said.

“I don’t think that a majority of the Democrats in the Congress want to leave America’s fighting forces in harm’s way without the resources they need to defend themselves,” he said.

Despite Mr. Cheney’s confident forecast, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin said the vice president has lost credibility with the American people and that Democrats will continue pushing an emergency war supplemental bill with benchmarks even if they don’t have the votes to override a veto from President Bush.

“We are very, very serious about what the American people said in November,” the Michigan Democrat said. “They want a change of course.”

Mr. Levin also rejected the vice president’s criticism of the Democrats’ bills.

“[Mr. Cheney] has misled the people consistently on Iraq,” he said. “He has misstated. He has exaggerated. And I don’t think he has any credibility left with the American people.”

However, despite his pledge that Democrats would continue to challenge Mr. Bush on the war bill’s language, Mr. Levin last week acknowledged that his party would eventually have to pass a bill with funding for the troops that Mr. Bush would sign.

Mr. Bush’s refusal to accept a withdrawal timetable was supported yesterday by retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, a frequent war critic.

“I think it’s clear, though, that we cannot leave the region, we shouldn’t naively think we’re pulling out, that this is Somalia or Vietnam,” Gen. Zinni said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I think the debate should be, among the candidates, is how do we redesign the strategy for this region, protect our interests, create the kind of coalition involvement that would help support this and share the burden,” he said.

Mr. Cheney’s interview covered several other topics related to the administration’s track record, besides Iraq. The vice president twice used virtually identical language when pressed on past statements and actions that have been largely criticized in political circles.

On his 2004 assertion that the Iraqi insurgency was in its last throes, Mr. Cheney said, “Well, partly we have to respond to questions from the press. And we do the best we can with what we know at the time.”

Nonetheless, he refused to admit the statement was inaccurate. “I still think in the broad sweep of history, those will have been major turning points in the war in Iraq,” he said.

Then, when asked if the administration had a “credibility problem” surrounding the Justice Department’s firing of several U.S. attorneys and other perceived administration gaps, he said, “I think, obviously, we’ve got issues we need to work through, but you do the best you can with what you’ve got, obviously. And I think that on reflection that indeed the record of the president and his administration will stand up well to scrutiny.”

Finally, Mr. Cheney said he has not spoken with his former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, since the aide was found guilty of perjury for lying to federal prosecutors about his role in outing former CIA agent Valerie Plame.

“There hasn’t been occasion to do so, but I have enormous regard for the man,” Mr. Cheney said. “I believe deeply in Scooter Libby. He’s one of the most dedicated public servants I’ve ever worked with. And I think this is a great tragedy.”

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