Cheney promotes Pawlenty, war in Iraq

By Brian Bakst

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- With the Bush administration mulling an invasion of Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that the United States "will not look the other way as threats accumulate against us."

Addressing a fund-raiser in Minneapolis, Cheney spoke broadly about the war on terrorism, but also specifically described Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as a dictator who is "clearly pursuing" weapons of mass destruction and is a threat to share them with terrorists.

"Deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorists will expose this nation and the civilized world to the worst of all imaginable wars," Cheney said. "We will not allow it. We will not live at the mercy of terrorists or terror regimes."


In Baghdad, a senior Iraqi official denied that Saddam has such an arsenal and said there is no need for U.N. weapons inspectors to return to Iraq.

Cheney's remarks came at a $500-a-plate lunch for Minnesota's Republican gubernatorial candidate, Tim Pawlenty. More than a year ago, the vice president personally called Pawlenty and urged him to stay out of Minnesota's Senate race, where the White House preferred former St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman against Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Cheney didn't bring up the call Monday, although Coleman joked that he was "sure glad Tim Pawlenty had a listed phone number."

Pawlenty, who raised between $250,000 and $300,000 at the lunch, said after the event he and Cheney exchanged laughs about it during a private meeting. Pawlenty, the outgoing House majority leader, said although he was upset at the time, he thanked Cheney for intervening.

"The best thing that happened in terms of my public service was that call from Vice President Cheney," he said. "It's been a wonderful turn of events."

Pawlenty won a tough endorsement battle and faces only token opposition in a September primary. His likely general election challengers are Democrat Roger Moe, former Democratic congressman and current Independence Party candidate Tim Penny and the Green Party's Ken Pentel.

During his 20-minute speech -- dominated by talk about national security -- Cheney praised Pawlenty as an experienced public servant who is the leader of "one of the strongest Republican tickets that we have anywhere in America this year."

"The president and I are here to help any way we can," Cheney said. "This governor's race is important to the president and to me because we respect this man and his record."


State Democratic Chairman Mike Erlandson called the Cheney visit political payback for Pawlenty's willingness to step aside for Coleman in the Senate race. Pawlenty said the two aren't related.

It was Cheney's second stop in Minnesota in three months. President Bush has been to town twice this year on Coleman's behalf.

"I don't know if Norm Coleman and Tim Pawlenty are incapable of running their own campaigns or what, but Karl Rove in the White House warroom seems to be managing every top Republican race in Minnesota this year," Erlandson said.

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, Al Gore's 2000 running mate, was scheduled to stump for Wellstone today.

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