Tuesday, November 22, 2005

WaPo Milbank on Cheney

Opening the Door to Debate, and Then Shutting It: "Vice President Cheney protested yesterday that he had been misunderstood when he said last week that critics of the White House over Iraq were 'dishonest and reprehensible.'

What he meant to say, he explained to his former colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute, was that those who question the White House's use of prewar intelligence were not only 'dishonest and reprehensible' but also 'corrupt and shameless.'

It was about as close as the vice president gets to a retraction.

President Bush, traveling in China on Sunday, appealed for calm in the acidic debate over Iraq, which reached its low point Friday night when Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), in office little more than 100 days, implied that Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), a decorated Vietnam veteran, was a coward. Bush said there should be an 'honest, open' discussion about Iraq and 'people should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions' without their patriotism being questioned. 'This is a worthy debate,' he asserted.

Cheney tried to follow his boss's edict. 'I do not believe it is wrong to criticize the war on terror or any aspect thereof,' he said.

But exactly three minutes later, the vice president added this caveat: 'What is not legitimate, and what I will again say is dishonest and reprehensible, is the suggestion by some U.S. senators that the president . . . misled the American people on prewar intelligence.' This, he said, 'is revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety.'

He floated the notion that 'one might also argue that untruthful charges against the commander in chief have an insidious effect on the war effort itself' -- before adding: 'I'm unwilling to say that.'



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