POLITICS
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Hoyer Fires Back At Cheney, Bush Administration: 'They Turned Tail'

Dick Cheney ought to look in the mirror before he accuses President Obama of weakness or indecision on Afghanistan, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters at his weekly press conference Tuesday.

Responding to an interview with Politico in which Cheney accused Obama of delaying and politicizing his troop decisions at the expense of the military, Hoyer had unusually harsh words for the former vice president.

"Frankly, they turned tail," Hoyer said of Cheney and the Bush administration. "They started something and didn't finish it, and they left it for this administration to clean up."

That's not to say Democrats are thrilled at the prospect of committing further troops to the war. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last week that the possibility of a vote on escalation caused "serious unrest," and Hoyer said Tuesday that things haven't changed. "Across the spectrum, the caucus is concerned about our failure to succeed in Afghanistan," he said. "There is significant concern over whether or not we can be successful in Afghanistan."

Hoyer said his caucus is reserving judgment pending more details from Obama in his speech on Tuesday night and testimony from military commanders on Wednesday and Thursday. The caucus has not sufficiently discussed the war tax proposed by House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wisc.) with an eye to the spiraling national debt, Hoyer said, and he backed away from the proposal after stating that he agrees with its balanced-budget principles.

"I'm not supporting it at this point in time, but I do support his general proposition," Hoyer said. The economic crisis has limited the government's ability to pay down its debts, he said, but in general, "I generally am in favor of paying for what we do."

Without any concessions to antiwar liberals, Congressional leadership and the White House may have to pass the president's troop escalation with mostly Republican help. They'll probably get it, though: The Republican National Committee has already endorsed Obama's decision, as have former Bush officials including Karl Rove.

Not surprisingly, then, Cheney's comments are frustrating some Republicans still in office, since most of them plan to back the end result of the president's "dithering."