February 14th, 2010
05:50 PM ET
4 years ago

Biden vs. Cheney: 'Dead wrong' vs. 'Rewriting history'

Washington (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden and his predecessor Dick Cheney sparred Sunday over terrorism and the Iraq war, duking it out on the most prominent of platforms: the political TV talk show.

In separate appearances on different programs, Cheney called the Obama administration "dead wrong" about al Qaeda and Iraq, while Biden accused Cheney of trying to "rewrite history" and downplay President Barack Obama's actions against terrorism.

However, the former VP did call himself "a complete supporter" of Obama's Afghanistan strategy. He also expressed some support for Obama's decision to ask the military to drop its "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Citing military chiefs' support for the change, Cheney - whose daughter is openly gay - said he believes "society has moved on" and that it is "time to reconsider the policy."

But much of the three interviews - Biden on NBC's "Meet the Press" and CBS's "Face the Nation," Cheney on ABC's "This Week" - focused on the deep divide between the two sides.

Cheney, an outspoken critic ever since leaving office, was asked about Biden's recent remark on CNN that "the idea of there being a massive attack in the United States like 9/11 is unlikely, in my view."

"I just think that's dead wrong," Cheney told ABC. "I think the biggest strategic threat the United States faces today is the possibility of another 9/11 with a nuclear weapon or a biological agent of some kind, and I think al Qaeda is out there even as we meet trying to figure out how to do that."

On CBS, Biden shot back. "I don't know what Dick doesn't understand. The worry is legitimate. The reason why I do not think it's likely is because of all the resources we have put on this, considerably more than the last administration did, to see to it that it will not happen," he said.

Earlier, on NBC, Biden was asked about Cheney's recent complaints that the Obama administration was not treating the fight against terrorists as war. He cited the decision to give accused 9/11-mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a civilian trial, giving the failed Christmas Day airline bomber the privileges of the American criminal justice system, and the decision to shut down the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"Let me choose my words carefully here. Dick Cheney's a fine fellow. He's entitled to his own opinions," Biden said on NBC. "He's not entitled to rewrite history. He is not entitled to his own facts." Biden said the Christmas bomber "was treated the exact way" that Cheney had suggested Richard Reid, the failed "shoe bomber" who tried to set off explosives on a plane in December, 2001.

Biden noted that the Bush administration prosecuted hundreds of accused terrorists in civilian courts. "Where was (Cheney) the last four years of the last administration?"

Biden added that Obama has said the United States is at war with al Qaeda. "And by the way, we're pursuing that war with a vigor like it's never been seen before. We eliminated 12 of the top 20 people, we have taken out 100 of their associates, we've sent them underground." The success rate "exceeds anything that occurred in the last administration - and they did their best," Biden added, saying Cheney "either is misinformed or he is misinforming."

Cheney, on ABC, said his concern was with Obama's initial response to the Christmas Day terror attempt, "when he went out and said this was the act of an isolated extremist. No, it wasn't. We found out, over time, obviously, and he eventually changed his assessment."

The administration was "slow" to realize "that it was an act of war," said Cheney, adding, "It's the mindset that concerns me."

Cheney said that when the shoe-bomber case took place, it was not long after 9/11, and "we were not yet operational with the military commissions." Though Bush could have held Reid in military custody, "all of that was never worked out, primarily because he pled guilty," said Cheney.

And Cheney said that while more than 300 accused terrorists were tried in civilian courts under the Bush administration, "we didn't all agree with that."

Biden, on NBC, offered a blunt assessment of the previous administration's central foreign policy move - Iraq. "I don't think the war was worth it," he said. Obama has "built on the positive things that the Bush
administration initiated and we have jettisoned those that are negative," he said.

Biden recently said he believes Iraq will prove to be one of Obama's great achievements.

Cheney shot back. "For them to try to take credit for what's happened in Iraq strikes me as a little strange," he said, adding that U.S. withdrawal is "being done in accordance with a timetable that we negotiated with the Iraqis."

"If they're going to take credit, fair enough for what they have done while they're there. But it ought to go with a healthy 'Thank you, George Bush,' up front and a recognition that some of their early recommendations, with respect to prosecuting that war, were just dead wrong."

Cheney had less to say about Obama's handling of another major concern: Iran's nuclear ambitions. Asked whether he trusts the administration to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons, Cheney responded, "I remain to be persuaded."

The former VP said he will be seeing former President Bush this month for the first time since the two left office more than a year ago. They have spoken by phone periodically in the interim.

Asked what Bush thinks of his outspoken criticism of the new administration, Cheney responded, "I don't think he's opposed to it, by any means." And, Cheney added, "I have not been discouraged from doing so."

One of President Obama's top national security advisers, meanwhile, weighed in as well. Speaking to CNN's "State of the Union," Gen. Jim Jones was asked about Cheney's criticism.

"If it's informed, then that's one thing," Jones replied. "But it's important that people understand that we have a sitting vice president who is very much involved in the day-to-day operations of our national security, he is a member of the National Security Council. Has access to all of the information."

Asked whether he considers Cheney to be informed, Jones responded, "I don't know what his information is. I just would ask people to consider the fact that these are very serious issues for our country, and that when we take them on, we take them on in a respectful way. We consult and share with both sides equally of the political spectrum, and we will continue to do that."

Updated: 5:50 p.m.


Filed under: Afghanistan • Dick Cheney • Iraq • Joe Biden • Popular Posts • Terrorism
soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. RTB

    Cheney is so paranoid of the truth that he will go to any length to distort it.

    February 14, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  2. Cheney Gives Republicans A Bad Name

    Biden got one thing right: Going to war in Iraq was a huge mistake, a FIASCO resulted. NO WMD, No connection to Al Queda.

    February 14, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  3. Death Panel Sarah

    The reptili'con's want everything to be a 'war'.

    War on drugs, war on terrorism, war on science, war on history....ect.

    February 14, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  4. CerdaJ

    Cheney should be in jail for crimes against humanity. thousands of dead Americans, thousands perminently disable, countless innocent Iraqies dead and displaced for an unnecessary war.
    how can he sleep at night? what he should be doing is praying for forginess.

    February 14, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  5. German,Irish American

    Talk about re-writing history, this fool we have for a VP has plagerized speeches, declared that FDR went on TV before it was invented, takes claim for success in Iraq for Bush policies that he and Obama fought against and proclaimed failures while our soldiers were fighting for their lives. He made 11 foreign policy mistakes, his supposed expertise, trying to re-write history, in the debate with Palin that the media ignored. He invited people to have coffee with him in a cafe that has been closed for thirty years, and yet we should take this fool and his even bigger fool boss seriously?

    February 14, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. Ancient Texan

    I also recall Biden babbling, after the trip to Iraq when he wanted the country divided into three separate countries, "We're not staying, we're not staying, we're not staying". An now he wants the Obama administration to get credit for the winning surge and withdrawal of troops that was already set up before Bush left office. Biden is the gift that keeps on giving..,A perpetual Gaffe Machine".

    February 14, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. kcl

    Cheney acts like he's still campaigning. There are respectful ways to disagree instead of being simply divisive.
    I find it interesting how politicians change their minds about how to handle gay issues when they discover they have a gay family member. Why can't that compassion and understanding be present in the first place?

    February 14, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  8. Death Panel Sarah

    FORMER VP Cheney .... adding that U.S. withdrawal is "being done in accordance with a timetable that we negotiated with the Iraqis."

    I thought they were against 'timetables'!!!

    February 14, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  9. Republicanism is a mental disorder

    Cheney would curse the world to be at war forever. The man is an idiot.

    February 14, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  10. kravitz

    First, Jon Karl had Cheney visibly nervous. With good reason. I only wish Cheney's draft dodging had come up. Second, Biden was much better, thrashing David Gregory to pieces. Biden was clear and strong in his responses. On the east coast, Cheney was aired before Biden (though the actual Biden interview happened before Cheney). Third, we knew Cheney was going to ... 'attack' ... Obama. The press loves doing these prefabs now. But Cheney looked pretty weak again today.

    February 14, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  11. c spurgeon

    Cheney is mental and should not be sought out for his sicko opinions.Biden is right on with this interview....

    February 14, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  12. Monster Zero

    As I recall, Biden is an expert at re-writing others work and putting his name on it...what a newsflash!

    February 14, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  13. BAC

    Why would anyone listen to anything Dick Cheney has to say about terrorism? That's about like listening to the Detroit Lions coaching staff for advice on how to win the Super Bowl....

    February 14, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  14. Dingo

    Cheney does not deserve the respect of an audience, nor should Biden engage him. He should be prosecuted as a war crimes criminal and put in one of his so-oft supported prisons like Gitmo. He has profited from both wars and has deceived the American people for over 30 years. As far as I'm concerned He is the "Real" enemy, just like his old boss/puppet, Bush. It's ashame he is still being listened to..I guess it keeps the attention off the real problems, like jobs, poverty, health care, freedom of speech, etc..

    February 14, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  15. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    DICK Cheney is an American DISGRACE!
    Joe Biden is no prize, but Cheney is a criminal misuse of human skin.

    February 14, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  16. Mike

    In the senate both biden and nobama said the surge would not work and after it worked they both denied it and proposed cutting off funds for the troops. Now biden and nobama want to claim they are responsibile for Iraq becoming a democracy. Typical of biden and nobama, you can tell they are lying when their lips move.

    February 14, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  17. Tom

    Joe "Jobs is a three letter word" Biden is a clueless, hair-plugged, leftist buffoon, serial plagiarist and Soviet useful idiot who was on the wrong side of EVERY critical national security issue for the last 40 years. The poor fool might actually be more stupid than the clueless, community organizing socialist.

    February 14, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  18. Angy

    cheney is a born liar. he's doing more lying now then when he was in office. which I didn't think was possible. he is trying to rewrite the diaster he and bush created. what he needs to do is crawl back under the rock he came from before he took office.

    February 14, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  19. John

    @Liberalism is a Mental Disorder: you're trolling. Keep your ad hominem arguments to yourself. "The surge" you speak of was THREE YEARS AGO. If it's what "one the war," then why are we still there? Your vitriol against "liberalism" (whatever that means) is clouding your view of what's really happening in the middle east.

    February 14, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  20. jane

    It's unimaginable to me that a leftover from the Bush administration could possibly accuse anyone else of being "dead wrong" on Iraq. I wonder how many generations it will take our country to recover from the Bush/Cheney - or was it Cheney/Bush - years.

    February 14, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  21. Sue

    Did anyone watch Chris Wallace today???

    The Obama Admin wants "rehabilitation" of terrorists---and said that it is perfectly OK if 20% of those "rehabilitated" return to terrorism.

    This is unbelievable.

    It is also unbelievable that the Obama Admin is trying to take credit for the success in Iraq. However, the majority in the country are well aware of the fact that Bush is who deserves credit for the success in Iraq, NOT Obama.

    February 14, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  22. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    Cheney has probably forgotten more about national security than Biden ever knew to begin with. Biden needs to go hide in the old executive building and stick to the que-cards that Obama's speechwriters write for him.

    Gosh, I miss having a real vice president.

    February 14, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  23. ohbrother

    it almost sounds like they agree with each other for the most part; but they are like school kids bickering about details.

    February 14, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  24. K (DC)

    Old Dick probually feels as long as he make a lot of noise, everyone will forget about Scooter and why the Obama administration is allowing him to continue to walk around a free man instead of inditing him for his numerous crimes.

    February 14, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  25. Robrob

    @Blutarski – now that we are leaving the country that didn't attack us (Iraq) and moving troops BACK into the country that DID attack us (Afghanistan) there's no reason to be "anti-war" is there?

    It's amazing how people instinctively recognize and support the President doing the right thing, isn't it.

    February 14, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
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