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Democrats undercutting troops, Cheney says
Vice president's appearance at event in Birmingham expected to raise $500,000 for Sessions' campaign

By Phillip Rawls
The Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM — Vice President Dick Cheney defended the administration's handling of Iraq on Monday and accused congressional Democrats of undercutting U.S. troops by trying to impose limits on the war.

Cheney, speaking at a $1,000-a-person luncheon that was expected to bring in nearly $500,000 for Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobild, criticized an emergency war spending bill passed by the House that would require the withdrawal of U.S. troops by Sept. 1, 2008.

The Democratic-controlled Senate passed a nonbinding measure last week supporting the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by next March.

"When members of Congress speak not of victory but of time limits, deadlines, or other arbitrary measures, they're telling the enemy to simply watch the clock and wait us out," Cheney said.

"It's time the self-appointed strategists on Capitol Hill understood a very simple concept: You cannot win a war if you tell the enemy when you're going to quit," he said to a standing ovation.

Cheney repeated White House threats that President Bush will veto either the House or Senate legislation.

"It's also clear that we've got enough supporters of the military in Congress to sustain a veto," he said. "And so it is pointless for the Democrats to continue pursuing this legislation."

Responding in Washington, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said the Democratic legislation reflects the views of the American public.

"It is not 'pointless' for the Congress to heed the will of the American people; however, it is pointless for this Administration to continue with its failing stay-the-course strategy," Hoyer said in a statement.

Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, also criticized Cheney's remarks in Alabama.

"Democrats will not be lectured to, nor have our patriotism questioned by an administration that sent our troops off to war without the proper lifesaving equipment, a clear plan for success or the quality care they deserve when they return home," Dean said.

Cheney appeared for Sessions at an exclusive dining club overlooking Birmingham. Organizers said about 500 people paid to attend, but more than 100 seats were empty.

Sessions said he was pleased with the turnout and did not see the no-shows as a sign of disapproval of Cheney.

"The war has not gone as well as we'd like it to go. It's been a difficult time for us," said Sessions.

"The American people are uneasy, but I believe in Gen. (David) Petraeus. We've got the best man we could send."

Former Alabama GOP chairman Marty Connors said the luncheon was likely the state's second-largest fundraiser ever for a federal candidate.

trailing only Bush's appearance at an event for Sessions that raised more than $1 million five years ago.

Connors said Cheney's appearance might help scare off potential Democratic challengers.

"The message to would-be candidates is, `If you're going to run against Jeff Sessions, you're going to have to raise a lot of money and have a strong organization that can do fundraisers like this."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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