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Cheney Latest to Lash Out at Critics

By MARY CLARE JALONICK
The Associated Press
Thursday, November 17, 2005; 6:56 AM

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney is joining President Bush and other Republicans in accusing Democrats of foul play for asserting that the administration misrepresented intelligence to build support for taking the nation to war in Iraq.

Cheney said Wednesday the accusation is "one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."

"Some of the most irresponsible comments have, of course, come from politicians who actually voted in favor of authorizing force against Saddam Hussein," Cheney told the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, a conservative policy group.

"I agree with the vice president," Bush said Thursday in South Korea when asked about Cheney's remarks. "I think people ought to be allowed to ask questions. It is irresponsible to say that I deliberately misled the American people.

"What bothers me is when people are irresponsibly using their positions and playing politics," Bush added. "That's exactly what is taking place in America."

Cheney's speech was part of a GOP effort to push back against criticism on Iraq that presidential counselor Dan Bartlett said will continue.

Traveling with Bush, Bartlett said: "There's a bright line there that the Democrats have crossed. They have no facts on their side."

He said the administration to push back "will be sustained" because "in the last couple of weeks it has reached a critical mass and we felt it was important to respond."

Pushing back against the push-back, the Democrat's 2004 presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, said Cheney "continues to mislead America about how we got into Iraqi and what must be done to complete the still unaccomplished mission."

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Cheney was "playing politics like he's in the middle of a presidential campaign."

Bush has made two speeches in recent days that painted Democrats as hypocrites for criticizing the Iraq war after earlier supporting the idea that Saddam should go.

Although critical of some administration tactics in prosecuting the war, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Sunday that "I think it's a lie to say that the president lied to the American people" about prewar intelligence on weapons of mass destruction.

The Republican National Committee has posted on its Web site a video compilation of past statements by prominent Democrats _ including several 2008 presidential hopefuls _ who supported a hard line against Saddam.

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld singled out a number of Democrats, including President Clinton and his secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, who had depicted Saddam as a threat because of weapons of mass destruction.

Following up on that theme, Cheney said Wednesday that "these are elected officials who had access to the intelligence, and were free to draw their own conclusions. They arrived at the same judgment about Iraq's capabilities and intentions that was made by this administration and by the previous administration."

He said there was "broad-based, bipartisan agreement" that Saddam was a threat, had violated U.N. Security Council resolution and had banned weapons.

© 2005 The Associated Press