By: E&P Staff
In a briefing for reporters on Air Force One today, en route to North Carolina, White House spokesperson Dana Perino said the president stood by Vice President Cheney claims yesterday that Democrats opposing the Iraq war in Congress are helping al-Qaeda.
Perino said, “The Vice President was not in any way questioning anyone’s patriotism. He was questioning the strategy,” adding when questioned further: “The Vice President out of line? Absolutely not.”
Cheney had commented on ABC: “I think if we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all we will do is validate the Al Qaeda strategy. The Al Qaeda strategy is to break the will of the American people … try to persuade us to throw in the towel and come home, and then they win because we quit.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi responded to President Bush: “You cannot say as the president of the United States, ‘I welcome disagreement in a time of war,’ and then have the vice president of the United States go out of the country and mischaracterize a position of the speaker of the House, and in a manner that says that person in that position of authority is acting against the national security of our country.”
Bush had asked Pelosi to call him personally and tell him if any member of his administration went too far with the barbs, but he couldn’t be reached when Pelosi called the White house, and she had to transmit her comments through chief of staff Josh Bolten.
A portion of the transcript from Air Force One follows.
Q Dana, the Vice President made some comments about Democrats and their agenda and how it would — I don’t remember the exact wording, but I know you’ve talked to Ann Compton about this — just being that it would encourage terrorists in Iraq. My question is, Nancy Pelosi called the President, didn’t get him, apparently talked to Josh Bolten. Is the President going to return her call?
MS. PERINO: Josh Bolten did talk to Nancy Pelosi on behalf of the President. I’m not exactly sure the time of the call, I know the President was traveling yesterday. The bottom line is this: The Vice President was not in any way questioning anyone’s patriotism. He was questioning the strategy. And anyone who puts forward a strategy has to be able to explain the consequences of those actions if they were to move forward.
What the President and the Vice President believe is that Nancy Pelosi’s and Representative Murtha’s plan is one that would not help secure our country and would leave the region in chaos. And securing Baghdad is absolutely critical. So it was a questioning of the merits of their proposal, not their patriotism.
Q Was he at all out of line in making those comments?
MS. PERINO: The Vice President out of line? Absolutely not. He was questioning the merits of the — of their proposal. And I think if you go up and take a look back at some of the things that they’ve said about the President, the tables could be turned. But we’re not making the same accusations.
Q I’m sorry, just to follow up, the President hasn’t called her back. Do you know if he’s going to?
MS. PERINO: Chief of Staff Josh Bolten spoke to the Speaker on the President’s behalf. As far as I know there’s no — there’s been no other phone call.