February 14th, 2010
05:50 PM ET
10 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. Blutarski

    Is the anti-war movement dead, or has the media just decided its no longer news, now that there is a Democrat President?

    February 14, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  2. MsDp

    I wonder what cheney is afraid of? I wonder if he'll agree to answer questions from the British regarding the Iraq mess? I wonder what he is really hiding?!!! Someday, the truth will roll down like rivers of waters and then we'll all know what his true fears are all about! I can't wait!

    February 14, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  3. Liberalism is a Mental Disorder

    Talk about rewriting history – if anyone is doing it is Biden....Biden taking credit for Iraq's success when not only did we take the upper hand and basically one the war before BHO and Biden were in office and the troops were already scheduled to come home, BOTH BHO and Biden voted against the Surge which one the war.....BIden even said he was going to "shove it down Bush's throat".....the same guy that told a parapalegic to stand up and said that he can't go into a convenient store unless you speak indian....BRILLIANT....what an Idiot and you libs support this fool....how sad...

    February 14, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  4. Keith in Austin

    Considering the choice between Bozo's advisor and Cheney, when it comes to National Defense, I'll put my money on the former VP any day!

    To all you hate mongering liberal panty waists spewing your tired overused contempt, I pray that the next attack isn't in YOUR neighborhood!

    February 14, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  5. Robert

    Biden is just following orders from Obama. Let's face it – the Obama Administration has been slow to react to not only the Christmas Day incident but numerous others. They were diligent to not use 'war on terror' – yet that is just what it is. I think Cheney is correct in his assessment and bringing those murdering cowards to New York for a civilian trial is all the more proof. It is far left wing ideas – and not appropriate for the USA. The majority do not want big government, high spending, higher taxes and government run healthcare. Change yes – but now that we all know that Obama lied his way into getting elected. – come November.....that will be change we the American people can believe in!

    February 14, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  6. IKHAN

    what is so puzzling is that why do we have to listen to people who should be standing in the dock for their crimes against this nation & humanity ???

    February 14, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  7. Walter

    Why is anybody still listening to Dick Cheney? Its pretty clear to anyone who knows much about his history that he was already a little off kilter before 9/11 and that after 9/11 he became completely unbalanced.

    We should all just all leave the old lunatic out of serious discussions of public affairs. That way he'd do his party and his country much less harm.

    February 14, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  8. D.

    Cheney is a commentator these days, the "blame Bush" :Blame Cheney" strategy does not work with the folks anymore. The Christmas terror attack big mistake did not happen under Cheney.
    Stop campaigning start working for the people of the USA!

    February 14, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  9. Dale

    Cheney's credibility on National Defense died in the invasion of Iraq... RIP.

    February 14, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  10. Gilliard

    If Cheney is in fact a "complete supporter" of Obama's Afghanistan policy, then Obama must be committing war crimes and atrocities in Afghanistan. I'm even more scared about and opposed to the course Obama is charting in the name of America than I was before. Terrifying.

    February 14, 2010 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  11. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin are the Republicans worst nightmare as they appear to be leading the Grand Old Party. Cheney and Palin are the gift that just keeps on giving to the Democrat party; Cheney is a war criminal and Palin clearly is an idiot.

    February 14, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  12. JW

    Here you have what is probably the most intelligent person to every serve aas vice presidient sparring with a vice president that is a mental midget ,and possibly not even sane. What was Obama thinking?

    February 14, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  13. Reggie

    "...society has moved on." but Cheney hasn't. Dinosaur mentality that man.

    February 14, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. KarenInNova

    Isn't it painfully obvious to anybody else that Dick Cheney was, in fact, calling all the shots in the White House when Bush was in office? Why is Cheney the one constantly defending the Bush administration?

    February 14, 2010 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  15. usualone

    Today I listened to the comments VP Biden made regarding Cheney's comments about the current administration and their war on terror. He was right on the button. What is a concern is that the VP and the President are too gentlemanly in their opening comments about Cheney and the likes of Palin. I like their approach but apparently too many Americans think one has to act as a bully as was the case with Cheney. With Cheney's blowhard ways, it is apparent that he is afraid of everything. His approach didn't work in the past except when people only heard his tone and not his words. I particularly thought it was strong that the VP pointed out that the 3 who were tried by the military, two are out in the public again, while those tried by our citizens are all in jail. The Vice President and the President, and the other Democrats, need to really scream it out to all (not their usual tactics and I like their usual ways) because perhaps maybe that is the only way those who are impatient can finally get it through their brains that the old ways DID NOT work. It is sad they have to resort to those tactics but the party of NO will continue to effectively pounce on them.

    February 14, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  16. jimmm

    Biden is right....the war in Iraq was not worth it. It bankrupted this country both financially and in terms of the war on terror.

    February 14, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  17. katiec

    After what Cheney/Bush did to our country why would anyone give him any credibility??
    The man is an egomaniac, saying anything to get the headlines, and, unfortunately the media gives them to him.
    With CNN.s love for Cheney, Palin, Rove, Gingrich, etc, us Democrats don't have a chance of getting a fair, unbiased, treatment.

    February 14, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  18. Chris

    Seeking input from Dick Cheney on policy is a bit like taking financial advice from a homeless man. The previous administration's track record on decision making was one long series of complete and utter disasters. They left this country in shambles, us bogged down into two wars that were endless quagmires, and did nothing but help galvinize the terrorists. The difference between the way America was in 2000 before Bush/Cheney were elected and they way the left the country in 2008 – it almost seems like two seperate nations. What makes Cheney think he's such an insightful judge now?

    Rewriting history seems a favorite approach of the Right at this time. From Giulian's claiming there were no terrorists attack under Bush's watch to the Tea Baggers putting all the blame for the deficit on Obama. I guess they all believe the truth has a liberal bias.

    February 14, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  19. Sambow

    Has VP Biden ever got a fact straight? Don't think so as far as Iraq goes. Biden cannot hold a candle to Cheney on intellect. Cheney was, is, and will be right on Iraq. Biden on the other hand is the front man for Obama who tries to manufacture a success in Iraq. Remember Biden is the Iraq "Three-Sector" thinker, the "betraeus" stooge, and "we'll be out in one year" prognosticator. Biden, get a little dignity and recognize the talents and contributions of your predecessor before claiming credit. And, if you had any sense at all you would not be arguing national security on Sunday Morning liberal spin segments. If I'm lying, I'm dying!

    February 14, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  20. mike d

    hey lib is a...how sad it is that you supported an administration that invaded a country for posessing wmd that didn't exist. sent too few ill equipped troops. no armored humvees. didn't pay for it. took away all attention on afghanistan. and allowed 9/11 to happen on their watch. YOU are the real IDIOT!

    February 14, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  21. Jenn, Philadelphia

    If this administration truly wants to stop former vice president Cheney from making comments a good start is to stop blaming the last administration for every single problem the country is facing. Contrary to popular liberal belief, the Bush administration did not single handedly create these problems. They were aided and abetted by Congress, of which Obama and Biden were both members. Stop whining about "we inherited" and follow through on your campaign promises of "we'll fix it".

    February 14, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  22. HoldenLitgo

    Society moved on long before you did, Dick. And it continues to leave you in the dark.

    February 14, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  23. hillcoguy

    The Bush admin was losing that war, according to the dems (read o'bama and biden) and the dems were doing all they could to cinch the deal. The fought the surge and funds for the effort and NOW they they crow from the highest perches! WE WON!

    February 14, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  24. Four and The Door

    However, the former VP did call himself "a complete supporter" of Obama's Afghanistan strategy.
    This should rangle some of the liberal Democratic posters here. But this is entirely consistent with former Vice President Cheney's public comments since leaving office. He has always been brutally truthful in the interest of the country. If he sees something being done well by the current administration, he will be the first one to say so. He is not out for any sort of revenge. Remember, Obama did not beat Bush. Term limits did.

    February 14, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  25. GI Joe

    War was never declared, but I do remember Bush saying Mission Accomplished in 2003

    February 14, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
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