Cheney escalates attacks on Democrats

The Bush administration attack dog, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, stepped up his rhetoric against Democrats: “If they are competent to fight this war, then I ought to be singing on American Idol.”

During a campaign stop in Orlando, Cheney predicted that national security would dominate congressional elections in November and sought to rally Republicans amid dwindling popular support for President George W. Bush.

In Washington, Democratic National Committee spokesman Luis Miranda called the criticism of his party an attempt to divert attention from the situation in Iraq, which is torn by violence three years after the U.S.-led invasion.

Referring to a notoriously acerbic judge on the American Idol television talent contest, Miranda said, “Simon Cowell is more loved than this administration and its failed Iraq policy. Cheney wouldn’t last long on American Idol.”

Speaking to a Republican crowd at a fund-raiser for U.S. Rep. Ric Keller of Orlando, Cheney dismissed accusations that the administration was “dangerously incompetent” and defended the war in Iraq and Bush’s anti-terrorism tactics.

He spoke in favor of Bush’s controversial executive order allowing the National Security Agency to conduct wiretaps within the United States without warrants.

“Some Democrats in Congress have decided the president is the enemy and the terrorist surveillance program is grounds for censuring the president,” Cheney said, adding, “The American people have already made their decision. They agree with the president.”

A hunting accident in February, in which Cheney shot and injured a fellow quail hunter and Republican donor in Texas, also provided some stand-up comedy at the Orlando event.

While introducing the vice president, Keller said Cheney had responded to Keller’s recent votes against the administration on three issues by telling him: “Don’t be too hasty. Let’s go hunting. We’ll talk about it.”

Cheney himself said that when he returned to the White House from the hunting trip, Bush told him, “Dick, I’m 38 percent in the polls and you shot the only trial lawyer who supports me.”

Cheney said the man he shot, 78-year-old Harry Whittington, is in good condition.

© Reuters 2006