April 5th, 2009
04:10 PM ET
13 years ago

Axelrod hits back at Cheney: Not behaving like a 'statesman'

(CNN) - Top Obama adviser David Axelrod sharply criticized Dick Cheney's recent contention that the president's national security policies have made the country less safe, suggesting the former vice president is not behaving like a "statesman."

[President Bush] has behaved like a statesman," Axelrod told CNN's John King on State of the Union regarding the former president's decision not to criticize the new administration. "And as I've said before, here and elsewhere, I just don't think the memo got passed down to the vice president."

In an interview on State of The Union last month, Cheney said the president’s decision to reverse a series of the Bush policies with respect to the war on terror was putting the country's national security at risk. (Video below)

"I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoy, of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11," he said then. "I think it's a great success story. It was done legally, it was done in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles…"

But in the interview Sunday, Axelrod suggested the Bush Administration terrorism policies had largely failed.

"I find it supremely ironic, on a day when we were meeting with NATO, to talk about the continued threat from al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they're still plotting against us eight years - or seven years later," he said. "I think the question for Mr. Cheney is, how could that be? How could this have gone so long? Why are they still in business?"

Cheney's blunt criticisms of Obama have differed markedly with comments for President Bush, who in a recent speech said the new president "deserves my silence."

"I'm not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in the arena," the former president said during a speech in Canada last month.


Filed under: David Axelrod • Extra • State of the Union
soundoff (301 Responses)
  1. Bonnie Haynes

    If any of you people looked for the truth on anything you would remember that Dick Cheney was a servent of this country for over 25 years and everyone , even dumacrats loved him. But when the media tore him up everyone thats braindead and don't care about the truth jumped on the bandwagon. You all need to check out Haliburton for your own dumb self . Every country uses them. Not because of Dick Cheney but because they are the best at what they do! If it were about the money He could have stayed with them. Excuse me idiots don't care about the truth.Or they can't figure it out. but you know what, someday you will. I bet none of you people has served one day for this country. Thats why you can sit on your brain and think you have answers!

    April 5, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  2. Kate Peterson

    Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore should be reminded about statemanship. They spent eight years trying to undermine our government and the President. JImmy Carter is a despicable person and should be reprimanded by Axelrod for his nonsupport of our country. What a shame he had four years in the White House!

    April 5, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  3. John in Tampa

    Isn't hindsight great? There is nothing you cannot say in hindsight. Were we not attacked again after 9/11 specifically because of George Bush and Dick Cheney? I can think of other things which may have contributed, such as supportive other nations, and even the neccessarily secretive ANd long-term vision of Osama bin Laden. Nonetheless, it makes complete sense that taking the war to the enemy by taking on Afghanistan's Taliban was absolutely the way to go. It is impossible to imagine we would not have done that., and ANY President of the US would have had to do it.
    At that point it was also very winnable. But taking our eye off that and turning most of our effort against a tinpot dictator in another place just threw it all away.

    April 5, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  4. gregory

    Is there anyone out there who voted for Bush Cheney? I've personally never met one of these people. Defend yourselves. Defend your president.

    April 5, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  5. Freespeech

    Is this really still America? Freedom of speech applies to all not just those who agree with us, at least not until Obama makes it illegal for anyone who disagrees to speak up. Every time he talks he blames everything on Bush, so why is it Chaney is supposed to shut up? Time is coming that we will all see through the eloquence and realize we are losing our freedom....

    April 5, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  6. DONNA MCaLLISTER

    I can't believe that people think the people in the White House now think everything they are doing is going to make this country safe. Dick Chaney has it right on the button when he talks about the new policies being harmful to the security of this great nation.What great thing has Mr. Obama done yet that is good NOTHING and he will continue this path because he does not have the leadership to be a great leader.

    April 5, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  7. Steve Lyons

    The only change I have seen from Obama is his appeasement of terrorists and is disconnect of what the founding fathers put into the US Constitution. Bush may have moved the boundaries of what the Constitution authorizes, but did so for the welfare of the whole nation. Obama is wanting to push the limits of the Constitution in order to put the whole nation on welfare and for that he should be condemned.

    April 5, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  8. Edward

    Republicans are going to keep us safe yet 911 happened on their watch, 8 years later Al Qaeda is still in Afghanistan, we've spent billions of dollars just to bring democracy to Iraq and in effect just produced more recruits for Al Qaeda. When was the last time that we've spent so much yet accomplished so little? Bush spent like a mad man yet what do we have to show for it? NOTHING. That is the definition of failure.

    April 5, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  9. Mike A

    Bush policies have not kept us safe? What are you liberls smoking, besides your usual stuff. If Bush has promised on 9/12/2001 that there would be no more attacks on the US under his watch would anyone have believed him?

    Iraq is won, our enemies live in caves yet the man doesn't get a single word of thanks – unbelievable.

    If anyone thinks our community organizer in chief will keep us safe you are naive and we will pay the price in blood.

    April 5, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  10. Mardene Pemberton

    David Axelrod is completely right when he said that Dick Cheney is not acting like a statesman, because he is not a statesman, he is a THUG he is a great LIAR shame on Dick Cheney

    April 5, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  11. State of Tennessee

    The Obama administration has already wiped out terrorism in the world by banning the use of the word. For example, 9-11 was not a terrorist attack, but merely a "man made disaster". Problem solved!

    Actually, the real disaster is our bumbling community organizer who sounds more like Jethro Bodean when he doesn't have his teleprompter at hand so that his puppeteers can feed him some semi-intelligent comments.

    April 5, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  12. Bill

    Are we going to hold all ex presidents/vice presidents to this same standard? As entertaining as this is, the rants of the right and left, I think we forget President Carter and all his derogatory comments about President Bush? If Mr Axel rod applies the same standard to President Carter as he does to Vice President Dick Cheney, then we can say President Carter is not a statesmen either?

    We can not hold President Obama's past comments about President Bush to the same level, he said what he said in an election and that is not measured the same as ex presidents/vice presidents speaking poorly about sitting presidents/vice presidents.

    If we need an example, let's remember Democratic leadership (Rep. Pelosi, Sen. Durbin and Reid ) all told the President of Venezuela to shut up when he spoke poorly of the President of the United States. We can discuss and argue our views but remember at the end of the day it's our President. When we drag the office down we drag the United States down with it. The President will be in office no more than 8 years, our country will be around well past any Presidents term. All the President really does is sign or veto the bill's congress submits to the president. It's congress that really screws this country, and a fine job they've done so far. Unfortunately they do not have an 8 year limit.

    April 5, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  13. clare_bell

    Compared to Biden, Cheney is a world leader. Axelrod "thinks" that a statesman is anyone who agrees with him.

    April 5, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  14. Mona

    Personally, I think if Cheney had a brain he'd be dangerous! We are
    in this mess today b/c of Cheney, it was he, not Bush who ran this
    country & see where it got us? Now, Obama has the distasteful task
    of cleaning up their mess. I have utmost confidence in Obama & he
    will succeed. What you yahoo's out there who have no faith in Obama
    ought to sit back & give him some space.....you're quick to judge, my
    goodness the man has only been in office less than 90 days! I do
    believe tho, that both Bush & Cheney should be brought up on
    charges of failing this wonderful country.....the sooner the better!

    April 5, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. Brian

    Let's look back at the historical record: In 1993 Bin Laden's men attempted to topple one of the World Trade Center towers but were unsuccessful. Clinton had seven more years in which to eliminate Bin Laden but failed to do so, a failure he himself admits was one of his greatest. Since he left office he has paraded around the country making tens of millions on speaking tour – millions he doesn't deserve. In 1990 Bush/Cheney 'steal' the first Bush election thanks to Jeb Bush in Florida. Three years later we enter Iraq under the pretense of weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist. Haliburton, the company Cheney was CEO of prior to becoming VP, becomes the biggest and most profitable contractor to the Iraq war effort and over the course of the next six years Cheney cashes in his residual stock options in Haliburton making millions in the process. If you run the numbers Cheney's net worth increased by roughly one dollar for every dead, wounded or homeless Iraqi and one dollar for each and every dead or crippled American soldier. Six months before they leave office the price of oil temporarily quadruples giving big oil unprecedented record profits. After running the American economy into the ground while making the rich in America MUCH richer Bush and Cheney like Clinton retire on their millions and fat pensions while simultaneously tens of millions of American's are losing their jobs and homes. The bottom line: Washington is corrupt and self-serving and ceased representing Main Street a long time ago.

    April 5, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  16. Mac

    Thanks Frank, too many don't want to acknowledge what you said, most of the Bush/Chaney fan club are being fed Kool Aid from the blowhard who had 6 or 7 deferments.

    Frank April 5th, 2009 11:51 am ET

    The following is a common stataement: "During President Bush's administration we were not hit by a terrorist attack. That statistic speakes for itself."

    The logic escapes me that we ignore the 4,000 of our chilren dead buried and over 25,000 seriously wounded because it happened to them outside our borders.

    April 5, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  17. choi bunjun-shi

    I live in Iraq, work in Baghdad, and only hope the American taxpayer realizes that the monies spent here – could have re-paid the U.S. debt many times over, rebuilt OUR infrastructure, OUR schools, and alleviated the misery of millions of unemployed. Tax the hell out of Cheney and Bush to pay for their misguided adventures.

    April 5, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  18. T

    You guys are all not seeing this at it is. More people die from drunk driving accidents and Heart Attacks in the US every year than Americans who have died by so called "Terrorist" attacks in the last 20 years. Americans are more scared of Osama Bin "whatever", than the Cheeseburger they are putting down their throats. Does anyone else see what is wrong here? USA has lost over 4000 Heroes in Iraq. Fighting for their country. I believe in that, it is Honerable. Your American, Greedy, Money Grubbing Leaders sending you to your deaths over money isn't honorable, and then brainwashing you to think that you are going to suffer a sudden wave of attacks? - If you were to blank the word "Terrorism" out of every Bush/Cheney speech, every CNN newscast during that time, NONE of them would make sense. Instead replace the word terror with "bad guy" and see how silly they seem. They have just hyped it up. They've got you more scared of an IMAGINARY foe than you should be about your own health. I feel sorry for your Nation. I feel sorry for every person suffering through this economic crisis but all I have to say is that your country brought it upon it self by not acting as a proper democratic nation. Every last one of you sits around waiting for someone else to do something, THE GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO BE ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE.. remember that one some from where? THE PEOPLE.. key word, not "The Few". It is the responsibility of a democratic people to ENSURE that their government does THEIR bidding, not the other way around. So ACT LIKE IT, instead of talking a big game all of the time.
    God Bless America, because if he doesn't, who will.

    April 5, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  19. Don

    Why do we keep hearing that the past administration kept us safe? 9-11 happened on Bush and Cheneys watch. They were briefed on the danger and where it was coming from. They KNEW we were going to be attacked. Lies and obfuscation did not make us safe. Torture did not make us safe. Every intelligence person coming out of Iraq say that the terror there escalated as word of GITMO and Abu Grahib got out. Most foreign fighters, (saudis) were there for revenge for the prisons. Bush and Cheney got us into war for profit. Not too surprising as Bush's granfather sold oil to the Nazi's in WWII just for the money.

    April 5, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  20. AL

    Hopefully, if all the evidence hasn't been destroyed already, Cheney & Co. will be indicted, tried and convicted in the country for at least civil rights violations. Better yet, in order to regain the image and reputation that the US once enjoyed by was destroyed by the last administration, Obama should sign on to the World Criminal Court and then immediately ship them the last administration for prosecution as a sign of good faith.

    April 5, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  21. Susan

    I agree that perhaps Vice President Cheney was too public about his opinions. But where was this sensitivity when Jimmy Carter was repeatedly critical of former President George W Bush?

    April 5, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  22. rob c

    Can anyone explain to me why I keep reading that the prez is weak. How can he be weak when he shows so much strength. Coming from a mixed race background and a time that was so against him to leading the US doensnt amount to weak in my mind. What that tells me is that unlike the last prez we had that came from wealth, we have someone who has the experience and insight into the cultural identity of America to formulate a better path ahead for America. Even though we as a nation could more than likely kick but all over the world to get what we want, that is not the mark of strength but stupidity since we need other countries to keep this world stable. If never use your mind and always your fists like bush/cheney it makes others want a piece of you to prove their strength. Strength with wisdom on the other hand forces others to play their cards in a way that u can counter or predict their actions. Like with NK, had we shot down that missile(that was a failure) there would be another war the US would be tied up in because we have so many assets in that region and are basically responsible for Japans security and SK continued independent existance. And let's not forget China and Russia are players there too. Sometimes showing restraint and hearing the concerns of others is a sign of true strength. I believe this the case here, espescially when one can just runover another with snap of the fingers. One sided and rushed judgements as is the case with bush/cheney almost never involve thoughts about the consequences of actions which to me is a sign of weakness. Most of all globally it only pisses off other nations with real strength even though they may not be as strong as us they still have influences in the world that we don't need to alienate. Ask the US economy, and all of my fellow unemployed who have virtually no say in the matter outside of a vote every couple of years.

    April 5, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  23. SteveM

    God Bless George W. Bush and Dick Cheney! Look at the facts, North Korea was stroked on the Clinton watch. There were no launches over the last eight years. One more thing that the dems will blame on Bush. Take responsibility, dems in power since 2006, they have there PR machine at full throtle. They use scare tactics and LIES!

    April 5, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  24. ec

    You wish Cheney would run for president – yea, me too hopefully in 2012. After all he is the most despised VP ever (he didn't dare come out of hiding until after the election), so his chances of breaking 25% vote would be amazing. He's even hated by some of my Republican friends – PLEASE, PLEASE – that would be awesome.

    April 5, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  25. Rangerdan

    GG63 as a Soldier for the last twenty years, I can tell you President Obama's comments about arrogant Americans is exactly correct. Why do you think we in the military have had such a problem getting things squared away in the middle east. Everytime I sent Soldiers to go learn some of the language of the country we were going to my Soldiers would look at me and say why do I need to learn this jibberish. We have an attitude, that everyone should speak what we speak and act like we act and if they don't they are less than us. That is the textbook definition of arrogant. I am just giving you the military version, cause I can guarantee you that it happens even more for business and tourist Americans throughout Europe. You need to get you head out of the hole and realize this is a planet that is inter-connected and we have to learn to deal with each other. As a Soldier I have been doing it for years, and I can tell you in the School I am in right now where there is atleast one foreign student in each class, they believe that as well. It is only after we let down our attitudes and they begin to see the real us that they realize we are not as arrogant as we appear.

    April 5, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
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