Former Vice President Dick Cheney is hitting back at the Obama administration for past criticism of Bush administration tactics during the war on terror.
Cheney said the Obama administration’s actions have been equally as aggressive, noting that the drone strike that killed al Qaeda leader Anwar al Awlaki had “executed, in effect an American citizen with a predator, with a drone strike. ”
Cheney made his comments during an interview session with his daughter Liz as part of the Washington Ideas Forum being hosted by the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
In an interview last week, the former vice president said he had asked for the Obama administration to apologize for past criticisms of its handling of the war on terror, particularly enhanced interrogation techniques. Today, he said, the Obama administration might want to reconsider its criticism based on how aggressive it has been in fighting terrorists.
Cheney used Obama’s 2009 speech to the Muslim world in Cairo as his point of reference.
Said Cheney, “When he went to Cairo, he did announce that we’d sort of overreacted to 9/11, that we’d walked away from our ideals, that he, President Obama, had been the one who’d brought an end to torture and ordered that there not be any torture – implying that we were torturing, and we weren’t.”
He added, “In light of the fact that they are obviously pursuing fairly aggressive measures – which I support – I think they did the right thing with that drone strike. Nonetheless, they’re now at the point where they executed, in effect, an American citizen with a predator, with a missile strike. I’d lay that alongside our enhanced interrogation program. Maybe they might want to reconsider the criticisms they leveled at us back when they went to Cairo in ’09.”
Cheney said he has no regrets about his time as vice president, saying, “On balance, I think we got it right. … With respect to what we needed to keep the country safe, as I say, from my perspective, it worked.”
He added, “We achieved our objective, at some price in terms of my reputation, our standing in the polls.”
Cheney has not endorsed any Republican presidential candidate yet.
“I’ve stayed very carefully away from the contest,” he said. “They don’t need my advice.”
He understands why the economy is the dominant political issue and “at this point, that’s what everybody’s focused on.” But he added, he’s “very concerned that we not lose sight of how important it is that we maintain our vigilance in the global war on terror.”
He cautioned against deeper defense budget cuts that could do “permanent lasting damage to our national security capabilities.”
He said entitlements should be looked at for debt reduction instead of defense cuts.
“You can’t save enough out of the Defense Department to solve the debt problem, he said. “And if you take too much out, it’s going to do serious damage.”
He wants to know what the GOP candidates will have to say in coming months “about that proposition and how they propose to deal with defense issues and the budget question going forward. ”
Liz Cheney finished up the discussion by asking her father, “Were you secretly running things?”
The former vice president brought up a humorous anecdote of how President Bush had banned Cheney’s dog from his Camp David residence as an example of who was really in charge of the White House.
Cheney said he’d once brought Dave, his yellow Labrador, to Camp David and ended up taking him to President Bush’s lodge where Barney, Bush’s Scottish terrier, was at the time. According to Cheney, Dave liked chasing after squirrels and Barney “looked a lot like a squirrel – don’t tell the president I said that.”
Dave started chasing Barney around the dining room table, he said, creating quite the scene when President Bush walked in asking, “What the hell’s going on around here.”
Cheney grabbed Dave and drove him back to his own cabin and, 15 minutes later, heard a knock at the door. It was the Navy captain in charge of Camp David, who looked uncomfortable, “all decked out in his full uniform, and he said, ‘Sir, until further notice, your dog Dave is banned from the lower lodge.’”
Cheney says President Bush ”never said a word to me, but that will tell you who was running the show. It wasn’t me.”