February 14th, 2010
05:50 PM ET
8 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. Obamadable Snowman

    Sure Joe, all of a sudden you want credit for Iraq?? Too funny......

    February 14, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  2. Dennis in AZ

    Cheney hiding? Hmmm He did move to Wyoming–but wasn't he from there? The current VP has more mouth than trousers I'm afaid when it comes to policy on Iraq. Former VP Cheney seems to be defending his role in history. Politicians have a worse track record than broken clocks–at least the broken clocks are right twice a day. It was the current congress who voted to increase their own benefits while freezing cost-of-living increases for Social Security. For someone who's on Disability right now–that chaps my ass more than chemotherapy.

    February 14, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  3. Stephen Matthews

    Cheney is clearly a man who has lost his grip on reality. Remember "we will be greeted as liberators"? Remember "mission accomplished"? Where are the "weapons of mass destruction"?
    I think Cheney is afraid that if he does not make a preemptive attack on the Obama administration and gin up support for his failed war policies that he will be discovered to have played a larger role in the Valerie Plame episode and other incidents of misleading congress.
    It would not surprise me if, in a few years, there will be an effort for President Obama to pardon Cheney for crimes not yet convicted of.

    February 14, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  4. Cobra Montana

    Obama should be so lucky to have anyone as smart as Cheney to advise him!!

    February 14, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  5. monasterymonkey

    Dick Cheney – the ultimate opportunistic weasel.

    February 14, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  6. JimCA

    What Biden meant is that cleaning up Bush's fiasco in Iraq will be one of Obama's greatest achievements, right up there with cleaning up Bush's destruction of the economy, Bush's inattention to climate and ecological threats, Bush's fostering of terrorism, Bush's attacks on the rule of law, Bush's transfer of wealth to the upper 0.1%, etc.

    February 14, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  7. jm-in-ia

    If Cheney wanted to be President, he should have ran in 2008. Instead he follows behind each and every movement Obama makes, LOOKING for something to criticize. He reminds me of an obnoxious, growling little ankle-biter that will not stop... a buzzing, biting gnat.

    Why does he go out of his way to be so publicly annoying now, when while in office he was the silent partner? He's doing nothing but playing politics, pure and simple. His 'in-your-face' rhetoric is a dangerous game which could cause harm to this country. He obviously wants us to be attacked just so he can point an accusing finger at Obama. HE WANTS HIM TO FAIL! I don't care what your political stripes might be... I doubt either party wants our country to be attacked. This game he insists on playing could put us all in danger.

    Other out-going leaders haven't behaved in this unprofessional manner. Why does he? Sure, opinions are voiced from time to time but not with the frequency of this VP. (and I am old enough to recall Many presidencies). The bottom line people is: United we stand; Divided we fall. Are we really so far gone as Americans that we would wish upon ourselves a disaster...just to prove our points? If this is all we stand for now then we deserve to fail as a nation.

    February 14, 2010 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  8. James

    I'll tell you whats BRILLIANT. Someone who doesn't know the difference between 'won' and 'one' trying to criticize the current administration.

    February 14, 2010 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  9. Jasmine in Germany

    Go, Joe, go! Cheney, Bush, and Rumsfeld should all be in prison!

    February 14, 2010 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  10. nick

    Cheny better re-write history because the way it will probably turn out is that he'll be hanged for high treason once the truth is finally revealed.

    February 14, 2010 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  11. Charlie in Maine

    Here is a trick I do to know if Cheney is lying. Watch his lips closely. Are they moving? If they are he is lying.

    February 14, 2010 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  12. Dean in PA

    Cheney is joke. I hate his pompous sneer almost as much as I hate to hear him speak. He has a hell of a lot of nerve even talking after he participated in (or perhaps led) the last eight years which have brought this country nothing but shame.

    February 14, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  13. Don of Iowa

    I think there is little doubt among anyone that the real truth here is Dick Cheney is dead wrong and you do NOT have to rewrite history to prove it, stupid is stupid no matter what color you paint it and Cheny/Bush are the stupidest of the bunch.

    February 14, 2010 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  14. Debbie

    Cheney should be tried for treason for crimes against the American people! I truely believe the man is evil. The evidence is piling up about what he and Bush knew and entered Iraq for no reason other than personal economic gain. That placed our military in harms way for no reason. The cost of the war caused such a huge deficit that it almost caused another great depression.

    Funny Cheney hid in his hole while protected in office but comes out screaming now...hmm maybe because he sees prison in his future?

    He would be smart to crawl back to his hole and ignored before the truth comes to light and his world is surrounded by prison walls.

    February 14, 2010 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  15. Tony

    Can someone please tell Dick Cheney that he had eight years. Can someone please tell him to go away. 9/11 happened on your watch and you can never change that. It amazes me that a man who loves talking about war so much declined serving his country FIVE times. All Dick Cheney wants to do is to re-write history so he can make himself look better. I never agreed with President bush but he at least has kept quiet for the most part and is letting the Obama administration do it's job.

    February 14, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  16. Mike in WA

    Still waiting for Obama to Stop the Air raiding of villages that he claimed Bush was doing by using UAV's to kill Taliban. Ohh wait he increased those attacks just another example of him flip flopping on issues.

    February 14, 2010 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  17. Albo58

    Biden is a complete boob and a liar! Both he and the President aren't competent enough to do battle with Dick Cheney and their attempts of rewriting history are plainly pathetic!

    February 14, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  18. Larry

    Cheney has lost his mind. He has no credibility, not that he ever had.

    February 14, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  19. Papasan

    Cheney has seen his star fade into the distance, all he does now is rattle his rusty old sword and whine like a little baby. All this War Mongering from a guy that got FIVE (5) deferments during the Viet Nam War, he was unqualified to be in public office at any time. Unqualified to comment on National Security when he has a financial reward considering his many holdings with Halliburton / Arms Manufactures.

    No War = less $$$ for Cheney!
    Cheney is a traitor to the USA!

    February 14, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    "It's the mindset that concerns me."

    People could say the same about the last eight years!

    February 14, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  21. John D

    Biden is all wet on this. He is the one rewriting history. He's dumber than dirt. Why doesn't the WH put the muzzle back on this guy.

    February 14, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  22. Shermani

    Joe Biden is clueless on many topics, and even more clueless (if this is possible) on national security. He is on his final tour of public service, thanks to his hooking his wagon to a run away horse like Obama. Biden has limited knowledge and experience in dealing with the likes of Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, PLO, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, etc. Biden was sent to Vancouver to stay out of the political spot light, because he tends to put his foot in his mouth more than Al Gore. Former Vice President Dick Cheney may not be the most popular guy on the block, but he absolutely speaks from years of experience. Congressman, White House Chief of Staff, Secretary of Defense, Vice President, etc. Biden should stick to community events, wait.....so should the most popular community organizer......Obama!

    February 14, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  23. yesmanbiden

    I don't see how iraq or afghanistan either, could be one of this admins greatest achievements, they drug out sending more troops for months, even though the generals (who actually know whats going on) had asked for them. all I have seen them do is bow to everbody in the world,apoligize for America's arrogance and schmooz with third world dictators who rule with communism, Really shows strength, huh.

    February 14, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  24. SCOTO

    I like this "society has moved on" line which is becoming prevalent when Republicans admit they were on the wrong side of an issue originally. When secular vales are advanced (as opposed to religious bigotry impeding matters) we do "move on" We move on from slavery,
    from discrimination, from homophobia, etc etc.

    February 14, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  25. Randy, San Francisco

    Cheney should be conducting these interviews from a jail cell convicted for war crimes against humanity.

    February 14, 2010 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
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