Q Do you think it's important for the country to be liked, and what effect do you think that something like Abu Ghraib had on U.S. efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East? And are you still optimistic that that can happen?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I am optimistic that it will happen. I think you're seeing it in Iraq. I mean, this is a nation that's written a new constitution, had three national elections, getting ready to have another one next year. It's a remarkable thing when you think about it, a nation like Iraq in the heart of the Middle East, governed for decades by a dictator like Saddam Hussein -- I think that's a fundamental, lasting value, and will, in fact, change that part of the world.
What was the first part of your question?
Q It was a kind of two-parter, but do you think that it is important for the country to be --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, to be liked.
Q -- to be liked and --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think it's more important that we be respected. And I think that because we are who we are, because we are Americans, that that generates both admiration and criticism -- admiration in terms of people who admire our democracy, who are impressed with what we've been able to accomplish economically. And it's best represented in those millions of people who keep trying to cross our borders and move in with us. I don't know any other nation on Earth that has that kind of appeal to so many other people.
I think there's some criticism generated by those who've disagreed with us over the years. I think in some cases there are governments that go out of their way to be critical of the United States, oftentimes for their own domestic political purposes. I can think of -- well, Vladimir Putin, and some of the statements he's made and the speeches he's given about the United States. And in effect, he has, in this most recent financial crisis made statements that imply that we're responsible for their difficulties.
Q How do you feel about that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think he's wrong. The question is whether or not he knows he's wrong.
Q Let me ask you about a secret mission that you and President Bush have engaged in and doesn't get a lot of attention, but I think we'd like to ask you a little bit about it -- the things you do off-calendar in your own time to work with the families of injured, or soldiers who were killed, and those who are injured and recovering. Could you talk a little bit about what you and the President have done, and why you've done it, and why you've done it sort of in a quiet way that doesn't call much attention to it?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sure. Well, I think we've -- the President has really set the tone overall, and he feels a very special obligation to those who he has to send in harm's way on behalf of the nation, and a very special obligation to their families, especially the families of those who don't come home again.
And what we've done is we've both visited out to Bethesda or Walter Reed. He, in his travels, spends time with the families of the fallen. If he goes down to Fort Bragg, he'll oftentimes pull together the families of guys who were stationed at Bragg and killed in action, and spend time with the families.
One of the things we've done a number of occasions is to host a barbecue at the Vice President's residence, where we invite in the wounded from Bethesda or Walter Reed, and their families, and provide a meal for them, and invite in usually a country and western singer to participate. We had Charlie Daniels not too long ago. Sara Evans has been in, people like that.
Q No rap. (Laughter)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No rap, no. The country and western is sort of a compromise between old folks -- you know, the big band sound of the '50s and the rappers that the younger generation understands. I have trouble even following it. (Laughter.) But we -- you know, I think we all feel a very, very special obligation to them.