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Cheney criticizes Pelosi for Syria visit

Times Staff Writer

Vice President Dick Cheney scolded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday for “bad behavior” in traveling to Syria, a country that he said promoted terrorism.

In a conversation with fellow conservative Rush Limbaugh on Limbaugh’s radio show, Cheney belittled Pelosi’s public statement after she met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Wednesday.

“It was a non-statement, a nonsensical statement, and didn’t make any sense at all that she would suggest that those talks could go forward as long as the Syrians conducted themselves as a prime state sponsor of terror,” Cheney said.

In her statement, Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, said, “We came in friendship, hope and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace.”

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All week the White House has criticized Pelosi’s trip to the Middle East, but no comments have been as colorful as Cheney’s.

“This is a bad actor,” the vice president said of Assad, “and until he changes his behavior, he should not be rewarded with visits by the speaker of the House of Representatives.”

Limbaugh asked, “Don’t you get enraged when this kind of thing happens?” Cheney said he was “obviously disappointed” in Pelosi.

“Fortunately,” Cheney said, “I think the various parties involved recognize she doesn’t speak for the United States in those circumstances; she doesn’t represent the administration. The president is the one who conducts foreign policy, not the speaker of the House.”

Limbaugh asked Cheney about President Bush’s use of a recess appointment Wednesday to install Sam Fox, a St. Louis businessman and GOP fundraiser, as ambassador to Belgium. Fox had previously been nominated, but the White House withdrew his name last week when it became apparent that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee opposed him and the Senate would probably not confirm him.

In the 2004 presidential race, Fox contributed $50,000 to the controversial Swift Boat veterans’ campaign against Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential nominee. Kerry, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, led the opposition to Fox’s nomination.

The recess appointment, made during the Senate’s spring break, allows Fox to serve until almost the end of Bush’s presidency. Some Democrats questioned the legality of the appointment because the White House had withdrawn Fox’s nomination.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Fox had agreed to receive no salary. Under federal law, he said, recipients of recess appointments are paid if their nomination is pending at the time of the appointment or if the vacancy occurred within 30 days of the appointment. Neither is true in Fox’s case, he said.

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Limbaugh called Fox a “great American,” and said the recess appointment showed that the White House was “willing to engage these people and not allow them to get away with this kind of -- well, my term, you don’t have to accept it -- Stalinist behavior from those people on that committee.”

“Well, you’re dead-on, Rush,” Cheney said.

Limbaugh, referring to the Democrats, said, “You go on vacation, this is what happens to you.”

“If you’re a Democrat,” Cheney said, and they both laughed.

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joel.havemann@latimes.com

Times staff writer Johanna Neuman in Crawford, Texas, contributed to this report.


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