Cheney Rips Obama: President 'Trying to Pretend' U.S. Is Not at War

One day after President Obama called the "human and systemic failures" leading to the attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest flight 253 "totally unacceptable," former Vice President Dick Cheney is accusing the president of being part of the problem.

"We are at war, and when President Obama pretends we aren't, it makes us less safe," Cheney said in a statement to Politico.

Cheney said Obama's "low key response" to the failed attack, refusal to use the phrase "war on terror" and the pending closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center all reflect an attitude that terrorism is a law enforcement problem, not a military one.

"Why doesn't he want to admit we're at war? 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," Cheney said.

When asked by ABC News to react to Cheney's comments, a White House official pointed to comments made to Politico by a "senior Democrat."

"It's telling that in attacking the president and the administration, that Vice President Cheney did not condemn the attack against our nation on Christmas Day," the senior Democrat told Politico.

The official added that Obama previously made statements that "explicitly state we are at war. The difference from the last administration is that we are at war with that which is tangible -- al Qaeda, violent extremists and terrorists -- rather than at war with a tactic, 'terrorism.'"

In a statement on the official White House blog Wednesday, communications director Dan Pfeiffer asserted that President Obama knows the country is at war but "doesn't need to beat his chest to prove it."

"To put it simply: the president is not interested in bellicose rhetoric," Pfeiffer wrote. "He is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country. And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies to be attacking the president."

Cheney's criticism of Obama is the latest in a string of rebukes from Republicans who have said the president's response to the attempted Dec. 25 plane bombing has been slow and inadequate.

Obama, vacationing with his family in Hawaii, delivered his first public statement and ordered two reviews of the nation's security apparatus on Monday -- three days after the failed bombing. Tuesday, the president made another appearance to discuss preliminary findings that he says have raised "serious concerns" within the administration.

Democrats noted that President George W. Bush waited six days before publicly discussing the thwarted December 2001 attack by shoe bomber Richard Reid.

Cheney: Obama Won't Admit 'We're At War'

Full Cheney Statement to Politico:

"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. 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.

"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. 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. He seems to think if he gets rid of the words, 'war on terror,' we won't be at war. But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren't, it makes us less safe.

"Why doesn't he want to admit we're at war? 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. President Obama's first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war."

ABC News' Teddy Davis contributed to this report.

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