(CNN) - The White House is responding forcefully to former Vice President Dick Cheney's comments Wednesday that are sharply critical of President Obama's response to the botched terror attack on Christmas Day.
"It is telling that Vice President Cheney and others seem to be more focused on criticizing the Administration than condemning the attackers," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House's official blog. "Unfortunately too many are engaged in the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay, instead of working together to find solutions to make our country safer."
The response comes hours after Cheney delivered a blistering statement saying the administration's response is proof that the president "is trying to pretend we are not at war."
"He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won't be at war," Cheney said in the statement. "He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of 9/11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won't be at war. He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al Qaeda-trained terrorists still there, we won't be at war."
HONOLULU, Hawaii (CNN) - Powerful Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) fired back at former Vice President Dick Cheney for slamming President Obama's response to the attempted terror attack in Detroit as too weak.
"That's nonsense," Inouye told CNN. "I think, I hate to say this, but I think the former Vice President lost all of his credibility by the way he's been conducting himself. I would expect a person with the potential of leading this country to be a bit more responsible."
Inouye, who as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee hold sway over all defense and homeland security spending, said Obama handled the incident in a "proper fashion" by not commenting too quickly after the attempted attack on Northwest flight 253.
"Well he could have spoken five minutes after but that wouldn't be responsible, not knowing what the facts were," said Inouye. "Why should you instill fear and scare [people] when something is not justified? So I think he did the right thing."
Cheney released a written statement Wednesday morning charging that Obama was not doing enough to defend the country.
"As I've watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war," Cheney said in the prepared statement. "He seems to think if he has a low key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won't be at war."
(CNN) - While the two might never face each other on an election ballot, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton narrowly edges out former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in one new poll: Americans' most admired woman.
In a new survey by Gallup, 16 percent of Americans named Clinton as the woman they most admire, while Sarah Palin won the admiration of 15 percent. Talk-show host Oprah Winfrey and first lady Michelle Obama come in at No. 3 and No. 4 with 8 percent and 7 percent respectively.
Other women making the list with 1 percent each include former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, poet Maya Angelou, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Tiger Woods' wife Elin Nordegren.
"Hillary Clinton has now been named Most Admired Woman 14 times since 1993, spanning her career as first lady, New York senator, and now secretary of state," Gallup states. "The three times she has not finished first during this time, she earned second place (to Laura Bush in 2001 and to Mother Teresa in 1995 and 1996)."
Meanwhile, President Obama is clearly America's most admired man this year, with 30 percent of those surveyed naming the new president. Former President George W. Bush comes in a distant second with 4 percent while former South Africa President Nelson Mandela scores 3 percent in the poll.
HONOLULU (CNN) - The Obama administration conducted two secure briefings on Wednesday for Congressional staffers about the attempted terror attack on Northwest Flight 253 that left key aides with still a lot of unanswered questions about what went wrong, according to two Congressional officials familiar with the sessions.
One of the officials familiar with the briefings said the takeaway was that "there are still lots of questions Congress will be asking about what could have been done differently and what will be done differently in the future" to prevent attacks.
The official added that Obama officials who conducted the briefings told the Congressional staff that it "appears there wasn't enough negative information prior to the incident to take any severe measures" such as putting the eventual suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, on the No-Fly List to prevent him from boarding the plane.
The Congressional official said the two briefings occurred Wednesday morning in a secure room of the Capitol for key Congressional staffers because most lawmakers are traveling outside Washington because of the Congressional recess for the holidays. At least one lawmaker, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Michigan, was in Washington and did attend.
Washington (CNN) - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich went after the Obama administration for its strategy to fight terrorism, accusing them of believing that "protecting the rights of terrorists has been more important than protecting the lives of Americans."
In a letter published in the conservative Human Events magazine on Wednesday, the former Republican leader criticized the Obama administration's response to the failed Christmas Day terror plot, saying that the administration is "imposing hopelessly meaningless rules" for travelers instead of "targeting the source of the threats."
"Today, because our elites fear politically incorrect honesty, they believe that it is better to harass the innocent, delay the harmless, and risk the lives of every American than to do the obvious, the effective, and the necessary," Gingrich wrote.
He added this fear of political correctness has caused the government to miss critical signs that could point towards potential terrorists.
Washington (CNN) - The attempted Christmas Day bombing of a commercial airliner has renewed questions of whether the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission have been taken seriously.
In its 2004 report on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the commission warned that the Transportation Security Administration and Congress "must give priority attention to improving the ability of screening checkpoints to detect explosives on passengers."
But at most airports, travelers simply pass through magnetometers, which are unlikely to detect bomb materials on their body.
Nigerian suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, 23, is accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane going from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan, with explosives concealed in his underwear. The explosives failed to detonate properly.
A Government Accounting Office report from October found that TSA has an array of "10 passenger-screening technologies." But the TSA, the report indicates, "has not deployed any of these technologies to airports nationwide."
One solution aviation experts point to is sophisticated screening technology such as full-body scans, which are more likely to detect explosives. But those devices are years away for most U.S. airports - though several are in operation at major airports across the country.
(CNN) - Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, the conservative Senate Democrat who provided the party with the 60th vote needed to prevent a Republican filibuster of the health care bill, is defending his move in an a television ad set to air Wednesday.
The ad, to run during the sure-to-be highly rated University of Nebraska's Holiday Bowl game Wednesday night, features Nelson himself directly explaining to constituents why he voted for the measure the recent polls of have suggested is unpopular with most Nebraskans.
According to the Lincoln Journal-Star, Nelson will tell constituents he worked hard to improve the controversial bill before committing to be the Democrats' crucial 60th vote.
"Now it lowers costs for families and small business, protects Medicare, finally guarantees coverage for pre-existing conditions and reduces the deficit," Nelson says in the ad, according to the paper. "And it's not run by the government. I'm convinced this is right for Nebraska."
As part of his agreement to vote with the Democrats, Nelson successfully negotiated the federal government to pay in perpetuity for Medicaid's expansion in his state, an agreement that has riled other senators whose states have to foot the bill.
Nelson told CNN shortly after the vote he did not seek any special favors.
"I didn't ask for a carve-out," Nelson told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. "What I said is the governor of Nebraska has contacted me, he said publicly he's having trouble with the budget. This will add to his budget woes. And I said, look, we have to have that fixed."
Nelson won't face reelection until 2012.
(CNN) - In blistering new comments Wednesday, former Vice President Dick Cheney says President Obama's reaction to the botched terrorist attack on Christmas Day is proof the president "is trying to pretend we are not at war."
In his first statement since the Christmas Day terror attempt, Cheney hits Obama for what he describes as the president's "low key" response to the events last week, and criticizes the administration's broader approach to national security.
"He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war," Cheney says. "He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of 9/11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al Qaeda trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war."
Cheney adds that Obama outwardly "pretends we aren't [at war]," and the former vice president repeats his months-long criticism that the new president has made America "less safe."
"Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war?" Cheney asks. "It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency – social transformation—the restructuring of American society."
Democrats note President Bush was not subjected to criticisms from either Democrats or the media when he waited six days to respond to Richard Reid's attempted shoe-bombing of an airline on December 22, 2001. Like Obama, Bush was on vacation when that botched terrorist attack occurred 8 years ago.
Full statement after the jump
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama may be the most popular man in his administration, but according to a new national poll, he's not the most popular person.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday indicates that the president's poll numbers pale in comparison to the favorable ratings of two women: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama.
Fifty-eight percent of people questioned in the survey have a favorable view of Obama, with four in 10 holding an unfavorable view. But the president's favorable rating is 10 points below that of his wife and 6 points behind the secretary of state. According to the poll, 68 percent of the public has a positive opinion of the first lady, with 19 percent holding an unfavorable opinion. Sixty-four percent have a positive view of Clinton, with three in 10 holding an unfavorable view.
The survey indicates that nearly nine out of 10 Democrats have a positive view of the president, with Independents split and more than 3 out of 4 Republicans seeing Obama in an unfavorable way. The president's favorable rating is down 6 points from August and 11 points from April.
A reminder that a favorable rating is not the same as an approval rating: favorable ratings measure how Americans feel about Obama as a person, while an approval rating is an indicator of his job performance in the White House.
Honolulu, Hawaii (CNN) - In a marked shift from previous positions, senior Obama administration officials now say they are starting to see an al Qaeda connection to the attempted terror attack on a U.S.-bound airliner.
In the days after the failed attempt on Christmas Day, administration officials steadfastly shied away from linking the incident to the terror group and, in some cases, said there was no evidence of such a connection.
But one senior administration officials said late Tuesday that "some of the new information that we developed overnight does suggest that there was some linkage there" with al Qaeda.
The senior administration official was referring to intelligence that White House officials obtained late Monday night and then briefed President Obama about on Tuesday in a secure conference call.
The secure call, which included National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones and top homeland security adviser John Brennan, took place shortly before the president delivered public remarks suggesting there were "systemic and human failures" that prevented the government from stopping the attempted terror attack.