Cheney concedes failure to boost backing for war
Vice President Cheney admits the administration fell behind the curve in the debate over Iraq last year, allowing its adversaries to attack current policy without an adequate response and focusing on other issues.
Neither Cheney nor President Bush plans to make that mistake again. In an interview with U.S. News, Cheney said, "You do have to keep a sustained campaign going. There's no question about it. Last fall, obviously, there were a lot of other items on the agenda. We went through the whole exercise with Katrina and the hurricanes and disaster relief and so forth that was, I suppose, a bit of a distraction. But it is important to try to maintain public support for what we're doing out there."
On the road stumping for the administration's Iraq policy, the veep says he gets a good reaction almost wherever he goes. "I find when I get out around the country and talk with people about it, that most of the ones I interact with are very understanding and very supportive. That doesn't mean, obviously, that everybody agrees with the policy. Clearly, there are a number of folks who don't. But I think if they have time to think about it, presented with the question, 'Do you think we ought to immediately withdraw from Iraq?' I think the vast majority of Americans would say no."
But Cheneyapparently hoping to lower voter expectations in advance of the midterm elections in Novemberis warning that there are big challenges ahead in Iraq.
Two thousand six "is sort of the test now in terms of what the Iraqis can put together," Cheney said. "They're in the midst of negotiating on what the new government is going to look like, but they've got to be able to put together an effective government, a government that obviously takes into account the needs and wishes and desires of the broad diversity that we find in Iraq, but also one that's capable of taking these forces we're training, the security forces, and using them effectively to defeat the al Qaeda that are there."
Still, Cheney believes 2005 will be seen as "a watershed."
"The Iraqis met every single political milestoneelections in January, wrote a constitution in August, ratified it in October, new national elections in December. I think when we look back 10 years from now that '05 will have been a seminal year, if you will, to the development of democracy in Iraq."