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Cheney: GOP ‘will retain control'

The Examiner | October 5 2006

ABOARD AIR FORCE TWO - Vice President Dick Cheney said he “can't tell” how a Republican sex scan dal will impact next month's elections, but insisted “it makes no sense” for House Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign.

In his first public remarks on the burgeoning scandal, Cheney told The Washington Examiner in an exclusive interview that fellow Republican Hastert, R-Ill., should reject Democratic calls for his resignation.

“I'm a huge Denny Hastert fan — I think he's a great speaker,” Cheney said in his private cabin aboard Air Force Two. “And it makes no sense at all for him to think about stepping down.”

Cheney aides described the vice president as repulsed by allegations that former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., sent salacious e-mails and instant messages to teenage boys working as congressional pages. At the same time, Cheney is determined not to let the scandal overshadow campaign issues that he considers far more important — national security and the economy.

“I think we've got good stuff to work with,” he said during a flight from Houston to Washington. “The Foley thing, again, as to how that cuts, I can't tell.”

Cheney flatly rejected predictions by pundits that Democrats will take control of the House and Senate in November.

“We will retain control of both houses,” he said.

If Cheney is wrong, some believe Democrats will spend the next two years investigating the Bush administration with subpoenas and hearings. Some Democrats have already called for Bush to be censured, while others have hinted at impeachment proceedings.

“I don't think we fear investigations,” Cheney said. “I don't think they [Democrats] would get much done, if that's all they've got. And I don't think there's great enthusiasm on the part of the country for that.

“But I think the stronger argument is basic questions on the economy, tax policy on the one hand and national security on the other.”

As for national security, Cheney rejected the notion that Democrats will win the argument if they decouple the Iraq war from the broader war on terror.

“They are linked,” he said. “Democrats may not like that, but Osama bin Laden himself says Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. It just is.

“They may try to wish it away, but the bottom line is they don't have a policy, they don't have a strategy, they don't really have an effective philosophy for battling the global war on terror. They still, left to their own devices, probably would do what John Kerry seemed to focus on, and that's law enforcement. It's got to be a lot more than law enforcement.”

Cheney said that even if the focus of the campaign remains on Iraq, as opposed to the larger war on terror, the debate redounds to the benefit of Republicans because Democrats such as Rep. John, D-Pa., Murtha want to withdraw U.S. forces.

“I don't think the majority of the American people want to withdraw from Iraq,” Cheney said. “I think they'd prefer we complete the mission given to us.

“I also think it's important, if you're going to be responsible in this debate, that if you find things to criticize about Iraq — it's taking too long, we underestimated the difficulties of the task — you have to consider the consequences of a withdrawal from Iraq on all the other things you're doing in the global war on terror.”

For example, he said, it would adversely affect U.S. allies such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“The United States is no longer a trusted ally if al-Qaida is right in its claim that the U.S. doesn't have the stomach for the fight,” he said. “You'll have a hard time ever getting more allies to assist in this long-term struggle against the Islamic extremists. It's the worst possible thing you could do.”

Cheney was also forceful in his warnings that Democrats will raise taxes if they take control of Congress. He pointed out that Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., who would be chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, recently said he “cannot think of one” tax cut from President Bush's first term that should be extended.

“He doesn't believe there's a single tax cut that should be extended,” Cheney said. “If he simply doesn't act, as chairman, those taxes are going up. And I think that has significance for every family in the country.”

As Cheney spoke, stock prices skated across a flat screen television on the wall that was displaying news coverage of the country's economy.

“I'm sitting here watching — we're up 122 points — a new all-time record high,” he said of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. “And unemployment's down, inflation's down, productivity's up, gasoline prices have gone down significantly. If you look at the basic underlying fundamentals of how the country's doing, it's pretty damn well.”

Earlier in the day, Cheney had appeared with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to raise $196,000 for the Texas Republican's would-be successor, write-in candidate Shelley Sekula-Gibbs.

It was Cheney's 108th campaign event this season, bringing his haul for the cycle to $38.9 million, all of which will be used in the effort to elect Republicans.

“It is important to have a national perspective on a campaign,” he said. “It does have consequences — not just in terms of a selection of an individual to represent a particular district. There are major consequences that will flow from the collective decision the American people make on Nov. 7.”

 

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