Jake Tapper and Ely Brown report:
At Washington, D.C.'s Union Station this evening, former Vice President Dick Cheney received the Keeper of the Flame award, given by the Center for Security Policy for "those individuals who have enhanced American security through their commitment to a strong military, the propagation of democracy and respect for individual rights throughout the world."
Also receiving an honor — the Service Before Self award — was Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a convicted felon whose sentence was commuted by President Bush. Libby received a standing ovation. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and undersecretary Doug Feith were also in attendance.
As is his wont, Cheney took the time to criticize President Obama. Speaking of strategy in Afghanistan, former Vice President Cheney said, “President Obama now seems afraid to make a decision, and unable to provide his commander on the ground with the troops he needs to complete his mission.”
Cheney also suggested that the strategy Obama announced in March was, well, his.
Cheney said, in the fall of 2008, the Bush administration "dug into every aspect of Afghanistan policy," assembling a team that reviewed all options and recommendations, and briefing President-elect Obama’s team. "They asked us not to announce our findings publicly, and we agreed," Cheney said according to his prepared remarks, "giving them the benefit of our work and the benefit of the doubt."
The new strategy, Cheney said, according to the prepared remarks, "they embraced in March, with a focus on counterinsurgency and an increase in the numbers of troops, bears a striking resemblance to the strategy we passed to them." He called that a good decision, but said Obama now seems to be "pulling back and blaming others for their failure to implement the strategy they embraced."
Of the president's plans to alter missile defense plans in Eastern Europe, Cheney said, "I consider the abandonment of missile defense in Eastern Europe to be a strategic blunder and a breach of good faith.”
On Iran, the former vice president said President Obama “has moved blindly forward to engage Iran's authoritarian regime. Unless the Islamic Republic fears real consequences from the United States and the international community, it is hard to see how diplomacy will work.”
He also went on at length once again defending the Bush administration’s use of “enhanced interrogation” techniques, many of which are widely considered torture.
“It certainly is not a good sign when the Justice Department is set on a political mission to discredit, disbar, or otherwise persecute the very people who helped protect our nation in the years after 9/11," Cheney said. "There are policy differences, and then there are affronts that have to be answered every time without equivocation, and this is one of them. We cannot protect this country by putting politics over security, and turning the guns on our own guys”
– Jake Tapper and Ely Brown