|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
August 9, 2006
Interview of the Vice President by Wire Service Reporters
1:33 P.M. MDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. It's suggested I chat with you a bit just for a couple of minutes here about the Connecticut Democratic primary yesterday, and then I guess, we'll then be happy to respond to a couple of questions.
I was -- obviously, we're all interested in this year's election campaign. I know Joe Lieberman and have a good deal of respect for him given that we were opponents in the 2000 campaign; and of course, spent a fair amount of time watching the man and studying him over the years, especially in connection with our debate in 2000. And as I look at what happened yesterday, it strikes me that it's a perhaps unfortunate and significant development from the standpoint of the Democratic Party, that what it says about the direction the party appears to be heading in when they, in effect, purge a man like Joe Lieberman, who was just six years ago their nominee for Vice President, is of concern, especially over the issue of Joe's support with respect to national efforts in the global war on terror.
The thing that's partly disturbing about it is the fact that, the standpoint of our adversaries, if you will, in this conflict, and the al Qaeda types, they clearly are betting on the proposition that ultimately they can break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task. And when we see the Democratic Party reject one of its own, a man they selected to be their vice presidential nominee just a few short years ago, it would seem to say a lot about the state the party is in today if that's becoming the dominant view of the Democratic Party, the basic, fundamental notion that somehow we can retreat behind our oceans and not be actively engaged in this conflict and be safe here at home, which clearly we know we won't -- we can't be. So we have to be actively engaged not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but on a global basis if we're going to succeed in prevailing in this long-term conflict.
So it's an unfortunate development, I think, from the standpoint of the Democratic Party to see a man like Lieberman pushed aside because of his willingness to support an aggressive posture in terms of our national security strategy.
Lea Anne, you want to take it from there?
MS. McBRIDE: Thank you, sir. Yes, sir. First we'll go to Liz, Associated Press.
Q Yes. Mr. Vice President, thank you for joining us today. With Lieberman in Connecticut losing, Joe Schwarz in Michigan, Cynthia McKinney in Georgia, is there an anti-incumbent wave this year? If so, which party does it benefit?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I guess, I'd be hard put to think of what the wave is, or what parallel you can find between Joe Lieberman, Joe Schwarz and Cynthia McKinney.
Q Well, they're all incumbents and they all lost.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That may be. I don't see it as an anti-incumbent move. I think each one of those races was -- the Schwarz race, obviously, was a Republican race -- there's a history behind that in terms of how Joe got elected last time around and his opposition this time around. I didn't see it as having national ramifications, nor do I think the McKinney race does. I think the Lieberman case clearly does.
Q But not in terms of anti-incumbent sentiment --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No.
Q -- among the American people?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No.
Q Thank you, Mr. Vice President, for doing this. Based on what's happened now to Joe Lieberman, do you think that Iraq is going to be -- the election is going to be a referendum on the Iraq war?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I can't say that. I think national security policy is likely to be generally important. I supposed it will depend a lot -- these off-year elections, obviously, turn a lot in terms of local issues, and issues that are identified with specific states and congressional districts. But clearly within the Democratic Party, it would appear to be that there are deep divisions. I think there's a significant body of opinion that wants to go back -- I guess the way I would describe it is sort of the pre-9/11 mind set, in terms of how we deal with the world we live in.
Q And do you see yourself on the campaign trail this fall making these same points? Are we hearing the beginnings of a strategy on how to deal with this situation?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it is appropriate and should be that there be some discussion, obviously, of these issues this fall. I suppose different people will look at in different perspectives. I expect there will be a number of people out there who put national security issues first and foremost when they evaluate candidates. And I suppose I'm probably one of those. And I think we ought to address it, and I think there will be a fair amount of debate associated with that campaign this fall. I can't say that that's going to be necessarily true in every single district. I certainly plan to talk about it a lot. I expect the President will, too.
Q Sure, okay.
Q Yes, thank you, Mr. Vice President. Is the White House going to offer Senator Lieberman any help as he runs as an independent? And in addition, what makes you think that the anti-war sentiment that Lamont won on won't work against Republicans, as well?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I doubt that we have any intention or aspirations of getting involved in Joe Lieberman's campaign.
Q Well, just other than --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think we can look at it on a personal basis and say I think he's a good man. And if he were to leave the Senate, that would be a loss to the Democrats. But we're not embracing Joe Lieberman's candidacy.
Q Sure, okay.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Now what was the second part of your question?
Q The second part was, what makes you think the anti-war sentiment that Lamont tapped into won't work against Republican candidates this election?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, you've got to remember that was in a democratic primary. But I think Connecticut -- Connecticut is Connecticut. It's got a long history there. They have not elected a conservative senator for quite some time.
Q So how certain are you that Republicans will maintain control of both houses for this election?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I feel significantly better about it today than I did, say, three months ago. I've done about 80 campaigns now. I think we've got a lot of good candidates out there. We're making a major effort. I've done more this cycle than I have in previous cycles with respect to these off-year elections. The President is actively and aggressively involved. I think it will be a hard fought election contest. Clearly, the off-year election in the second term of a presidency always is. But as I say, I'm more optimistic now than I was a few months ago that we'll have a good November 7th. I think it will be a hard fought contest, but I do expect we'll retain control of both houses.
Q What makes you more optimistic, sir?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Just the feel I get out on the road, the quality of the candidates, the way our fundraising is going, I think the caliber of our get-out-the-vote efforts and so forth various places have been important in the past, and I think will be again this time around.
MS. McBRIDE: Thank you so much, sir.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good to talk to you.
END 1:43 P.M. MDT