Cheney Accuses Obama of Weakening U.S. Security

Mar 15, 2009 12:03pm

ABC News’ Tahman Bradley reports:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said that President Obama is making critical national security choices that make the American people less safe. Cheney, who discussed various topics Sunday on the CNN program "State of the Union", used his interview to defend the Bush administration’s war record, economic policies and even a few friends, Scooter Libby and Rush Limbaugh.

Asked to answer yes or no by modifying myriad Bush administration national security policies whether Obama has made Americans less safe, Cheney said, "Yes."

The specific policies that Cheney was referring to include Obama’s decision to require that CIA interrogators abide by the Army Field Manuel, as well as Obama’s move to suspend trials of terrorists by military commission, and Obama’s decision to close so-called CIA black sites and the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay.

It was those Bush policies and practices, said Cheney, that provided the government with the resources to protect the American public.

"I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that led us to defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9-11. I think that’s a great success story. It was done legally. It was done in accordance with our constitutional practices and principals."

"President Obama campaigned against (some Bush administration national security policies) all across the country and now he’s making some choices that in my mind will in fact raise the risk to the American people of another attack," said Cheney.

A classified U.S. report proves that specific terrorist attacks were stopped as a result of information that officials learned using Bush administration national security programs Obama has now reversed, Cheney said. He cited the government’s work in thwarting a terrorist plot to attack the U.S. using a hijacked plane from London’s Heathrow airport as one an example that was made public.

On Iraq, the former vice president said he thinks the Bush administration has not received the create its due.

"We’ve accomplished nearly everything that we set out to do. Now I don’t hear much talk about that. But the fact is violence levels down 90 percent, the number of casualties of Iraqis and Americans is severely diminished, there’s been elections, a constitution, they’re about to have another presidential election here in the near future. We have succeeded in creating in the heart of the Middle East a democratically governed Iraq and that’s a big deal."

Cheney said the war was "absolutely the right thing to do" and that history will remember that the Bush administration accomplished its goals in Iraq. He would not use the word "Mission Accomplished" because, he said, "it triggers reactions we don’t need."

The former vice president did not mince words on his view of Obama nominee Christopher Hill’s preparedness to be the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. "He’s not the man I would have picked for that post. He doesn’t have any experience in the region, he’s never served in that part of the world before. He’s got none of the skills and talents that Ryan Crocker had."

Cheney acknowledged that he and President Bush had a "fundamental difference of opinion" over a full pardon for Scooter Libby. "I was clearly not happy that we in effect left Scooter sort of hanging in the wind. I think he’s an innocent man who deserves a pardon."

It has been widely reported that Cheney was furious his boss in the final days of the administration did not pardon Libby, Cheney’s former chief of staff who was convicted of lying in the CIA leak case. The vice president would not give details about his disagreement with Bush, but hinted that information might appear in his forthcoming memoir.

As for the dust up over Rush Limbaugh and his influence in the Republican Party, Cheney said, "Rush is a good friend. I love him. I think he does great work." Cheney said he’d pay to see Limbaugh debate President Obama, as Limbaugh has called for.

Though President Obama is correct that he inherited an economic mess when he came into office, he should not, however, blame the Bush administration for creating the current economic crisis, Cheney said. He called out by name Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) and Rep. Barney Frank D-Mass., saying they, along with Democratic allies in Congress, blocked key reforms to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac sought by the Bush administration.

There are a couple of lifestyle changes for the vice president since leaving office. He said he now drives his own car (with the Secret Service following him) and uses a BlackBerry.

Cheney’s old boss, former President George W. Bush makes his first speech since leaving office on Tuesday with a private appearance before the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

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