WASHINGTON – Vice President Dick Cheney shot back at Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who has accused the Bush administration of playing "a pingpong game with American lives" by sending more U.S. troops into Iraq.
"Let's say I believe firmly in Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican," Cheney said. "But it's very hard sometimes to adhere to that where Chuck Hagel is involved."
Cheney's comments came in a Newsweek interview released Sunday. It is his first interview since the GOP lost control of Congress in November.
Hagel, a potential presidential candidate, has been outspoken in his criticism that the Republican White House lacks a coherent strategy in Iraq.
His "pingpong" remark came Wednesday as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee debated a nonbinding resolution that condemned Bush's troop buildup in Iraq. Hagel co-sponsored the measure, which the committee approved in a 12-9 vote.
But Hagel was the only Republican to vote for it.
Cheney admitted there was "flawed intelligence" prior to the Iraq war, but said that the past should not get in the way of present problems — Iraq's continuing violence and the broader terror war — nor override the good things being done in the country.
"There's no question that the struggle has gone on longer than we anticipated, especially in Baghdad. It does not, though, lead me to conclude that what we're doing in terms of our overall effort, taking down Saddam Hussein's regime, standing up a new democracy in Iraq, isn't a worthy objective," he said.
In the interview, Cheney also said he doesn't spend any time worrying about how the public or the media view him. When pressed to react to personal criticism from people with whom he has worked before, Cheney said: "Well, I'm vice president and they're not."