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Did Cheney Go Too Far?

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, August 14, 2006; 1:36 PM

By insinuating that the sizeable majority of American voters who oppose the war in Iraq are aiding and abetting the enemy, Vice President Cheney on Wednesday may have crossed the line that separates legitimate political discourse from hysteria.

Cheney's comments came in a highly unusual conference call with reporters, part of an extensively orchestrated and largely successful Republican effort to spin the obviously anti-Bush message of Ned Lamont's victory over presidential enabler Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic Senate primary.

In making the case that Lieberman's defeat was actually an enormous boost for Republicans, the customarily furtive vice president let loose not with compelling argument, but unsupported invective.

Voters who supported Lamont's antiwar campaign in the Democratic primary were giving "the Al Qaeda types" exactly what they wanted, Cheney said. And as a result the Democratic Party, he asserted, now stands for a wholesale retreat in the broader campaign against terror.

Liz Sidoti writes for the Associated Press: "Senate Democratic leaders on Friday accused Vice President Dick Cheney of playing politics with terrorism and contended that voters won't buy Republican arguments that the GOP is stronger on national security.

" 'They've run this play one too many times,' Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a conference call with reporters. 'The American people simply do not recognize any validity in what they're saying.' "

Olivier Knox writes for AFP: "While some Democrats have opposed some steps in the war on terrorism, and more and more are calling for a withdrawal from Iraq, no major figures in the party have called for a wholesale retreat in the broader conflict touched off by the September 11, 2001 attacks."

Ken Herman points out in his blog for Cox News Service: "The White House's Wednesday attack on Democrats as weaklings in the war on terror came as administration officials knew of the pending British arrests of terror suspects who allegedly planned to down several planes. . . .

"The White House and the GOP, in a coordinated effort, had moved quickly on Wednesday to portray Democrats as weak on national defense. Cheney, in an extraordinary procedure, took questions from wire service reporters during a conference call as he was in Wyoming. Cheney rarely, if ever, takes questions from groups of reporters."

Evan Thomas writes in Newsweek: "White House aides insisted that Cheney was not trying to exploit the latest terror plot for political advantage."

Cheney had been briefed on the plot, but the aides "claimed that at the time he spoke, he was unaware that arrests were imminent. Even so, these officials were somewhat hard put to explain why the normally press-shy Cheney volunteered to talk to wire reporters and offer his analysis on the national-security implications of a Lamont victory."

E.J. Dionne Jr. writes in his Washington Post opinion column: "In a telephone call with journalists, Vice President Cheney came close to suggesting that there is a new political blog out there called 'al-Qaeda for Ned.' His words have not received nearly the attention they deserve."


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