Cheney's Strategy, Gore at the Oscars

Vice President Dick Cheney met with leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan this past week; and former Vice President Al Gore political prospects after a triumphant night at the Oscars.

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LUKE BURBANK, host:

Well that's the view from Pakistan. Now the view from Washington on the vice president's trip. We turn to NPR's senior Washington editor, Ron Elving. Welcome to the show, Ron.

RON ELVING: Good to be with you, Luke.

BURBANK: So now Mr. Cheney is using the Congress as leverage in these talks with foreign leaders. What exactly is that about?

ELVING: Classic haggling technique, Luke. It's not me. I understand your position, Mr. President, General Musharraf. But it's my partner. It's the stockholders. It's those guys in the head office. It's the Democrats in Congress. They're moving this bill. They just don't get it. And if - if you don't do what we're asking you to do, those Democrats are going to hurt you.

BURBANK: Right. Let me ask my manager if I can give that deal, essentially. Well, President Musharraf - let me guess - said he's doing all he can?

ELVING: Yes, that we're doing all we can and that if you want us to do more, we're going to need more money and more weapons and more of a free hand. And actually you remember - I'm sure this is Musharraf's point - that we've been telling you for some time we're not getting enough cooperation from the government in Afghanistan.

So you really need to be pressuring those other guys next door.

BURBANK: Which sort of brings us back to the Democrats in Congress. Where do they stand?

ELVING: Well, the Democrats in Congress are more obsessed at this particular point in time with the situation in Iraq. They are concerned about Afghanistan. They see these reports - or some of them see these reports - that Ahmed Rashid was referring to a moment ago about the Taliban camps in Waziristan. And they're afraid that that's where Osama bin Laden may have gone to ground some time ago.

And they're obviously interested in what's going on in that part of the world. But they see the crisis. They see the moment that they need to deal with in Iraq.

So they're more concerned with some of the things that Vice President Cheney has been saying in the last week while he's been traveling in Asia about the Iraq situation.

BURBANK: Yeah. He's been on sort of a world tour lately. He was in Australia. And he's been - you know, he's been saying he thinks things are going pretty well in most of Iraq and that we should still focus on that.

He also said the Democrats - specifically Speaker Nancy Pelosi - are playing into the hands of al-Qaida by opposing a build-up in Iraq.

ELVING: Yes. Quite strong language, particularly for an American official traveling overseas. Some vice presidents of course in the past have played the hard cop. This is not an unusual role for them to play.

But you did get the speaker last week saying - Nancy Pelosi here - responding to the vice president, saying, that sort of language is just out of bounds. You're questioning my patriotism.

And then the vice president came back and said, no, I'm not questioning your patriotism. I'm just stating the fact that the policy that you prefer would validate the al-Qaida strategy, which is to wear down the American will to fight.

BURBANK: Ron, let me do a completely drastic segue here and bring it out to L.A. Last night vice president - former Vice President Gore was just - it was like a love fest at the Oscars.

ELVING: Indeed.

BURBANK: And one couldn't help but wonder, could that be enough to push him into the race, you think?

ELVING: I do not think it would be enough to push him into the race if it had never occurred to Al Gore to run for president again. But of course it has. And of course he wants to in the worst way.

And it would have been a marvelous kind of contribution to his campaign, as it would be, of course, if he were to win the Nobel Prize, for which he has also been nominated for this same activity.

But the same obstacle remains. He doesn't want to run against Hillary Clinton. He doesn't want to divide the Clinton camp. And nothing that happened last night is going to change that. She's going to have to get out of the way in some way, shape or form.

BURBANK: Yeah. But how many Oscars does she have? NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving. Thanks, Ron.

ELVING: Thank you, Luke.

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