ABC News Radio’s Ann Compton Reports: In an exclusive interview with ABC News Radio, Vice President Dick Cheney greeted the release of fifteen British sailors from Iran, blasted Democratic efforts to attach a timetable for withdrawal to an Iraq spending bill, and played the role of political pundit in the 2008 Republican presidential contest.
Regarding the soon to be released British sailors, Cheney told ABC News Radio, "I don’t know all the details, obviously, but I’m glad to know that the British sailors will be released," quickly adding that it was "unfortunate they were ever taken in the first place" and pointing out "there’s considerable evidence that they were, in fact, in Iraqi territorial waters when this happened."
Cheney said he did not know if there was a ‘quid-pro-quo’ ensuring their release but said if there was such an exchange, it sets a bad precedent for the future.
"If you get into the business where you reward that kind of behavior, there will be more of that kind of behavior," Cheney said.
The Vice President also sounded off on the emergency spending bill for the Iraq War currently winding its way through Congress with a timetable for withdrawal attached.
"The president is the commander-in-chief," Cheney declared, "he’s the one that makes the decisions about the use of miltary force."
Blasting Democrats who support the withdrawal measure, Cheney asserted, "They are trying to usurp the ability of the president to make those basic decisions," adding that he felt their legislative efforts would "interfere with the actions of our troops on the ground."
"We made it very clear," Cheney concluded, "what we want is a clean bill."
On another hot topic, the Vice President continued the White House’s criticism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s, D-Calif., Middle East tour which included a recent stop in Syria to meet with President Bashar Assad.
Cheney called Pelosi’s diplomatic venture "unfortunate" explaining, "the fact of the matter is Bashar Assad has been a bad actor in many respects," citing Syria as a "conduit for Iranian support of Hezbollah" and a "flow of jihadists" into Iraq.
Echoing President Bush, who on Tuesday labeled Pelosi’s visit to Syria "counterproductive", Cheney added, "He’s been isolated and cut off be of his bad behavior. The unfortunate thing about the Speaker’s visit is it sort of breaks down that barrier."
"His bad behavior’s being rewarded in a sense," Cheney concluded to ABC News Radio.
On the more general question of his relationship with the newly minted Democratic Speaker of the House, Cheney smiled and said simply, "It is what it is."
After complimenting Pelosi’s "historic" status as the first female Speaker, Cheney also said, "There are fundamental differences. Nancy Pelosi is basically a, you know, what (former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) Jeane Kirkpatrick used to call a San Francisco Democrat; she’s a liberal and those are her views, there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s her world view…(but) we’re bound to have disagreements and we do."
Expecting his sixth grandchild next month from daughter Mary Cheney and her lesbian partner Heather Poe, Cheney reiterated that he had not changed his views on the Clinton era ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ policy concerning homosexuals serving in the military and repeated his support for states taking the lead in gay rights equality issues.
Cheney, who returned to the hospital recently to treat a deep vein thrombosis, insisted he was feeling good and said, "I was fortunate to catch it early and I’ve got great medical care."
Declining to detail much about his post-White House plans except to say, "I’m not aiming to do anything in the public spotlight," later further clarifying, "but I do expect that the public aspect of it will end it ," Cheney did comment on the 2008 Republican presidential field.
Insisting he would stay out of the presidential fray until "at least after the convention", Cheney declined to predict a nomination winner but could not resist several pundit volleys from ABC News Radio’s Ann Compton.
When asked whether Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is too old to be president, Cheney answered, "No."
Asked whether former New York Mayor Giuliani has been married too many times to be president, the Vice President also retorted, "No."
And, finally, when asked whether religion would be an impediment for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Cheney again replied, "No."