Cheney Ends Silence, Praises Economic Policy; but No Comment on SEC Probe during Rare speech.(BUSINESS)
Byline: Patrice Hill, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Vice President Richard B. Cheney yesterday sidestepped hecklers and reasserted himself as the top economic spokesman for the Bush administration after months of silence overshadowed by a federal investigation of the oil company he once headed.
Saying he still has "great affection and respect" for Halliburton Co. and its officers, Mr. Cheney stated he would not publicly respond to the charges of accounting fraud being investigated at the Securities and Exchange Commission to avoid any appearance of pressuring the independent agency.
"There are editorial writers all over America poised to put pen to paper and condemn me for exercising undue, improper influence if I say too much about it," he told a questioner at a San Francisco appearance before the Commonwealth Club of California.
Protesters disrupted Mr. Cheney's speech, yelling, "Cheney is a corporate crook. No war with Iraq." The vice president smiled as the protesters were escorted out of the room and said, "Thank you very much," wire services reported.
Mr. Cheney made a veiled threat against Iraq, saying "the United States will not look the other way" while Iraq develops weapons of mass destruction. He also sought to dispell speculation that he is a one-term vice president.
"If the president is willing and my wife approves and my doctors say it's OK, then I'd be happy to serve a second term," he said.
"The facts" about the Halliburton investigation, he added, can be found on the company's Web site, where it has denied any wrongdoing and said it is working with the SEC to answer questions about its booking of revenue from cost overruns on construction projects when Mr. Cheney was chief executive.
"The vast majority of men and women in the business community are honest and aboveboard," Mr. Cheney said in the speech, which laid out the administration's blueprint for the economy amid signs that the recovery is stalling.
The vice president said President Bush's tax cuts and other policies aimed at stimulating growth have been vindicated by a report released last week showing that the 2001 recession started just as Mr. Bush was taking office last year.
Mr. Cheney's own widely criticized comment in December 2000 that the economy might be "on the leading edge of a recession" also was vindicated by the report. …