Cheney on Congress: Where are the men?

The vice president says his old friends are marching "to the tune of Nancy Pelosi" and "not carrying the big stick."

By Tim Grieve

Published December 6, 2007 5:46PM (EST)

Dick Cheney has spent much of his vice presidency questioning the patriotism of Democrats in Congress. Now he seems to be questioning their masculinity.

In an interview with the Politico Wednesday, Cheney said that "my friend Jack Murtha" and other "senior leaders" in Congress "all march to the tune of Nancy Pelosi to an extent I had not seen, frankly, with any previous speaker."

"I'm surprised by that," Cheney said. "I think of John Dingell and the energy business. This is a hot item right now. But I don't see John Dingell driving that train. It looks to me like Nancy Pelosi is driving that train. And that is -- well, it's surprising when I think of the -- I'm trying to think how to say all of this in a gentlemanly fashion -- but the Congress I served in, that wouldn't have happened."

Was Cheney saying that his old friends had "lost their spine"? "I was being very diplomatic in the way I phrased it," he said. "They're not carrying the big stick I would have expected with the Democrats in the majority."

Other highlights from the interview:

On the 2008 election: Asked specifically about the "Democratic side" of the presidential race, Cheney said: "We're scrupulously neutral in the process, and we need to be." Last year, Cheney described Hillary Clinton as a "formidable candidate" and said, "I think she could win. I hope she doesn't."

On Iraq: The man who said in 2002 that there was "no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction" and in 2005 that we were seeing the "last throes" of the insurgency now says he expects Iraq to be in a "good place" by the time the Bush team leaves office in January 2009. "We'll be able to look back on it and say that was the right decision, it was a sound decision to go into Iraq ... that we have, in fact, achieved our objective in terms of having a self-governing Iraq that's capable for the most part of defending themselves, a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, and a nation that will be a positive force and influence, if you will, in the future in terms of events and developments in that part of the world." By 2009? "Yes, sir," Cheney said.

On whether he'll be done with public service in January 2009: "I expect so," Cheney said. But then he added that he hadn't planned to be vice president, either, "so I thought I was through when I left Congress."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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2008 Elections Dick Cheney Nancy Pelosi D-calif.