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Cheney defends voting record in Congress
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican vice-presidential candidate Dick Cheney went on the offensive Thursday, defending his conservative voting record in Congress and accusing the Democrats of distorting his views.
In a blitz of interviews on morning television shows, George W. Bush's running mate batted questions about his record during six terms in Congress -- from his stand on abortion and gun control to one he made effectively voting against the release of South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.
Cheney -- who was defense secretary under Bush's father, President George Bush -- conceded he may have voted differently now on some issues. During his time in Congress during the 70s and 80s, the Cold War was raging and America was grappling with budget deficits, he said.
"So I think you've got to look at the decisions based upon the time at which they occurred. I'm happy to talk about basic fundamental principles; I think those have been generally consistent over time. And I don't have any problems defending that," Cheney, 59, said in an interview on CBS's "Early Show".
Cheney is staunchly anti-abortion and said this position had not changed over the years. Asked on NBC's "Today" show whether he would support a Supreme Court candidate who was not opposed to a woman's right to have an abortion, he said he would support any nominee put forward by George W. Bush.
Quizzed on his voting record on gun control, Cheney said the solution was in enforcing existing laws and not in imposing more, adding that Americans had the right to bear arms.
"If you are going to deal with the problems we have with guns you need to get out and aggressively enforce those laws," said Cheney, who joins Bush on Friday for a "Countdown to the Convention" tour starting in Texas.
Cheney, who is due to be officially nominated at the Republican Convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday, has come under a storm of criticism for voting against a resolution that would have recommended the release of Mandela.
Cheney said the notion he did not support the release of Mandela was a "distortion" by Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore's campaign. Mandela was freed from prison in 1990 and later became president of South Africa in that country's first democratic election.
The debate at the time was how best to pursue U.S. policies in South Africa, said Cheney. "Nobody supported apartheid," he said, adding that he believed then that by forcing U.S. companies out of South Africa many blacks would be worse off.
"That was the position supported by a lot of black South Africans," he said.
He also rejected claims he had held two fund-raisers at the Pentagon when he was defense secretary. "That's a far cry from the abuses we have seen out of the Clinton-Gore administration -- White House coffees and selling the Lincoln bedroom," said Cheney, who is best known for directing the massive U.S. military operation to expel an Iraqi occupation army from Kuwait.
Cheney, who had three heart attacks in the 1980s and bypass surgery in 1988, said he was closely watching his health but did not think it was an issue in the campaign.
"I mean, the fact of the matter is, I wouldn't have taken on this assignment if the doctors hadn't signed off on it and approved it," said Cheney on CBS.
Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Thursday, July 27, 2000
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