Last week, Vice President Cheney made notorious comments exemplifying his distance from the situation on the ground in both Iraq and the U.S. When asked about the sour public opinion on the war, he replied “So?” And when asked about 4,000 dead U.S. troops, he said, “The President carries the biggest burden, obviously.”
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is having none of it. In two interviews this week on NPR, Hagel ripped Cheney’s callousness towards the public and the troops on the ground.
Hagel told Dianne Rehm on Tuesday that the “So?” comment was not surprising considering Cheney’s “character”:
Well, I don’t think it was out of character for the Vice President. I have always believed that leaders should not be governed by polls, and obviously the vice president does and this president has noted that.
Yesterday, on NPR’s On Point, Hagel again went after Cheney, saying that his sense of Bush’s “burden” in the war is ironic coming from a Vietnam draft dodger:
There is a credibility gap here, at least a little bit, with the Vice President, as far as I’m concerned. Here’s a guy who got five deferments during the Vietnam War, said publicly that didn’t work into his plans.
Listen to audio of both interviews here:
The public agrees with Hagel. A recent World Public Opinion poll found that 81 percent of Americans believe that “when making ‘an important decision,’ government leaders ’should pay attention to public opinion polls; 94 percent want this done “in between elections.”
Cheney’s comments have met Hagel’s ire before. When Cheney said in January 2007 that “the biggest threat” in the Iraq war is the American public not having the “stomach for the fight,” Hagel said Cheney “underestimates the people of this country” and suggested that he tell families of the soldiers “that they don’t have the stomach.”