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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cheney Combative After Senate Ruling

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday that the administration had achieved "enormous successes" in Iraq but complained that critics and the media "are so eager to write off this effort or declare it a failure" that they are undermining U.S. troops in a war zone, striking a far more combative tone than U.S. President George W. Bush did in his State of the Union address the night before.

In a television interview that turned increasingly contentious, Cheney rejected the gloomy portrayal of Iraq that has become commonly accepted even among some Bush supporters. "There's problems" in Iraq, he said, but it is not a "terrible situation." And congressional opposition "won't stop us" from sending 21,500 more troops, he said, it will only "validate the terrorists' strategy."

On Tuesday night, the Democratic-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee dismissed plans for a troop buildup in Iraq as "not in the national interest" of the United States.

Chuck Hagel, the only one of 10 committee Republicans to support the nonbinding resolution, called the Iraq war a "pingpong game with American lives."

In his annual address, Bush acknowledged deep troubles in Iraq and made little effort to paint it a success.

Cheney rejected the idea that there had been any failure, however, and voiced the aggravation that many in the White House feel as Democrats step up their attacks on the Bush administration.

As leading Democrats lace their rhetoric with words such as "blunder" and "reckless," the White House has tried to calibrate how hard to push back.

Cheney, it seems, chose to push back hard, saying the administration would disregard the resolution opposing the troop increase, which he said undermined soldiers in a war zone. "It won't stop us," he added.

Cheney has been criticized in the past for presenting what some called an overly rosy view of the situation in Iraq, most notably in 2005 when he said the insurgency was in its "last throes." The view he expressed Wednesday seemed no less positive, and he sparred repeatedly with CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, telling him "you're wrong" and suggesting that he was embracing defeat.

When Blitzer asked whether the administration's credibility had been hurt by "the blunders and the failures" in Iraq, Cheney interjected: "Wolf, Wolf, I simply don't accept the premise of your question. I just think it's hogwash."

In fact, Cheney said, the operation in Iraq has achieved its original mission. "What we did in Iraq in taking down Saddam Hussein was exactly the right thing to do," he said. "The world is much safer today because of it. There have been three national elections in Iraq. There's a democracy established there, a constitution, a new democratically elected government. Saddam has been brought to justice and executed. His sons are dead. His government is gone."

Cheney was curt, as well, about leading Democrats. Asked whether he thought Senator Hillary Clinton would make a good president, Cheney said simply: "No, I don't."

And how did it feel to sit next to Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to serve as House speaker, on Tuesday night?

"I prefer Dennis Hastert."

(WP, AP)