- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday criticized Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for making “uninformed and misleading” statements about the war in Iraq.

“What is most troubling about Mr. Reid’s comments yesterday is his defeatism,” the vice president said in a rare Capitol Hill press conference.

“Indeed, last week, he said the war is already lost, and the timetable legislation he is pursuing would guarantee defeat.”

Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat, fired back by calling Mr. Cheney an “attack dog,” the same slur he used to describe the vice president a day earlier.

“The president sends out his attack dog often, also known as Dick Cheney, and he was here again today attacking not only me, but the Democratic Caucus,” he said.

Mr. Reid declined to respond directly to Mr. Cheney’s criticism that Democratic opposition to the current troop surge in Baghdad was a “political calculation.”

“I am not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody who has a 9 percent approval rating,” Mr. Reid said.

He said President Bush is “in a state of denial” about the dire situation in Iraq and called on the president to sign a $124 billion war-funding bill that includes a timetable to withdrawal troops as early as July — before the 30,000-troop surge is fully implemented.

A little more than half of the additional troops have arrived in Baghdad since the new strategy began two months ago, said Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.

The president says that he will veto any legislation that dictates war strategy and that the standoff with the Democrat-controlled Congress threatens to stall the funding and forces the Pentagon to raid other military accounts to pay for the war until July.

“Our troops should not be caught in the middle of that discussion,” Mr. Bush said yesterday.

“The Democratic leadership’s proposal is aimed at restricting the ability of our generals to direct the fight in Iraq,” the president said. “They passed legislative mandates telling them which enemies they can engage and which they cannot. That means our commanders in the middle of a combat zone would have to take fighting directions from legislators 6,000 miles away on Capitol Hill.”

Mr. Bush said he would never agree to “handcuff our general.”

The bill approved in a conference of both chambers of Congress sets a timetable to start a troop withdrawal as early as July 1 and no later than Oct. 1. It also would end combat missions by limiting military action to training Iraqi forces, protecting U.S. bases and conducting targeted counterterrorism operations.

The legislation heads to a final vote today in the House and tomorrow in the Senate.

A presidential veto could come as soon as next week, and then negotiations on war funding begin anew.

Earlier versions of the timetables passed both chambers by narrow margins, and Democrats likely cannot muster the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.

“If the president doesn’t like what we have tried to do to help the troops … tell us what’s wrong with it,” Mr. Reid said. “Don’t do the ‘my way or no way.’ ”

He said the president would have to learn to deal with “this pesky little thing we have in the Constitution called the legislative branch of government.”

Under the legislation, the troop withdrawal would commence July 1 if the Iraqi government does not meet benchmarks, including reducing sectarian violence, establishing a militia-disarmament program and enacting laws to share oil revenue.

If Iraqis satisfy the benchmarks, the troops would start to pull out Oct. 1 with a goal of most troops coming home by next April.

The Democratic strategy would limit combat operations by rolling back security patrols by the U.S. military in sectarian hot spots and by barring participation in the systematic search for insurgents — tasks typically determined by commanders on the ground and Mr. Bush as the commander in chief.

The new timetables appeal to anti-war House Democrats by moving up the pullout to as early as July and calling for an immediate end of U.S. involvement in military combat. It also satisfies the party’s more conservative senators by retaining that chamber’s carefully worded language that sets a “goal” for pulling out troops rather than a deadline.

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