WASHINGTON – Vice President Dick Cheney cast the global War on Terror on Tuesday as a "war of nerves," borrowing a phrase Harry Truman used to describe the Cold War. Cheney asserted that the hopes of the civilized world depend on a U.S. victory.
"We are not going to let down our guard," Cheney told a convention of automobile dealers. He said President Bush "will not relent in the effort to track the enemies of the United States with every legitimate tool at his command."
He defended the administration's warrantless wiretapping and detainee programs, both subject to criticism from Democrats and some members of his own Republican party.
Cheney characterized as "just plain wrong" a federal judge's ruling earlier this month rejecting the administration's plea to throw out a lawsuit over the wiretapping program. "We hope it will be reversed on appeal," the vice president said.
U.S. District Judge Garr King in Portland, Ore., said he was not persuaded by the administration's argument that going ahead with the case would harm national security. It was the latest of several differing rulings on a program the administration says is essential to fight terrorism, but that civil-liberties groups decry as an overreaching of presidential authority.
Cheney said that, to President Truman, the term Cold War was "an expression he never much cared for and seldom used. He called it the war of nerves. When you think about it, that's an apt description of the kind of challenge America is now facing."
"The war on terror is a test of our strength, a test of our capabilities, and above all a test of our character," Cheney said.
"We know that the hopes of the civilized world ride with us. Our cause is right, it is just and this nation will prevail," Cheney added.
Speaking to the National Automobile Dealers Association, Cheney suggested that the U.S. economy was firing on all cylinders and seldom has been stronger. He credited Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, and urged Congress to finish work on making them permanent.
Cheney told the dealers that modern automobiles are "marvels of design, performance and reliability. ... You're part of the reason America remains among the strongest economies in the world."
Cheney recalled that his own first car was a 1949 Chevrolet with several hundred thousand miles on it "which I drove with not much skill but plenty of enthusiasm. It had a lot of power. As I could recall, I could pretty much pass anything on the road except filling stations."