Vice Presidents Face Off: Dick Cheney and Joe Biden Go on the Offensive

Cheney and Biden don't agree on much, except on how wrong the other one is.

ByHUMA KHAN and RACHEL MARTIN via via logo
February 15, 2010, 7:27 AM

Feb. 15, 2010— -- The war of words between Dick Cheney and the Obama administration escalated as the White House dispatched Vice President Joe Biden to counter criticism by the former vice president.

Biden and former vice president Cheney don't agree on much, except on how wrong each believes the other one is when it comes to running the country. The two squared off in Sunday morning talk shows, with Biden making an appearance on both CBS and NBC in response to Cheney's exclusive ABC "This Week" interview.

The two leaders clashed on a host of issues, including the likelihood of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil on the scale of 9/11.

Cheney on "This Week" took a stab at the Obama administration's handling of the war on terror and its national security policies.

"It's the mind-set that concerns me," Cheney said of President Obama's handling of national security, including the decision to try 9/11 suspects in civilian courts rather than military tribunals.

Biden, who once called Cheney the most dangerous vice president in history, said the United States is unlikely to face another 9/11 type of attack.

"I always underestimate the way Dick Cheney approaches things," Biden said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "The reason it's unlikely is because we have been relentless, absolutely relentless in isolating al Qaeda, central al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, al Qaeda coming out of the Afghan-Pakistan region."

Cheney called that notion "dead wrong."

"I think, in fact, the situation with respect to al Qaeda to say that, you know, that was a big attack we had on 9/11, but it's not likely again, I just think that's dead wrong," the former VP said on "This Week. "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."

He said that kind of attitude makes America vulnerable.

"You don't want the vice president of the United States running around saying, 'Oh, it's not likely to happen,'" he said.

Cheney strongly defended waterboarding, the enhanced interrogation technique assailed by Obama and what many consider to be torture.

"I was a big supporter of waterboarding. I was a big supporter of the enhanced interrogation techniques," he said.

Cheney added that he opposed the current administration's move to do away with it.

"That's Dick Cheney. Thank God the last administration didn't listen to him at the end," Biden countered. "I think his fight seems to be with the last administration. We did exactly what President Bush did. We got the similar result. We are protecting America. And I don't know, it seems like Dick Cheney can't take yes for an answer."

Waterboarding is a controversial interrogation technique that was used by CIA officials on terror suspects. Its proponents, including Cheney, say waterboarding helped yield valuable information. Opponents, including Obama, said it's a form of torture. Waterboarding was phased out during the end of the Bush administration, but Obama officially banned it at the onset of his administration.

Dick Cheney and Joe Biden Face Off on Sunday Shows

Cheney, who has emerged as a vocal critic of the Obama administration, said the current president should thank its predecessor for success in Iraq.

"If they're going to take credit for it, fair enough, for what they've done while they're there. But it ought to go with a healthy dose of 'Thank you, George Bush' up front and a recognition that some of their early recommendations, with respect to prosecuting that war, we're just dead wrong," he said.

Biden countered that it's not credit the Obama administration is taking, but responsibility.

"We're not taking credit. We had to take responsibility," said Biden, who is in Vancouver for the Winter Olympic games. "When we took responsibility for the mess that we were handed to us at the end of last year, an awful lot of very informed news people ... were wondering whether or not that country could be put together."

President George W. Bush has been mostly silent since leaving office more than a year ago, while his vice president appears to be relishing the freedom that comes from being out of office.

"I have the great freedom and luxury of speaking out, saying what I want to say, what I believe," Cheney said.

Some analysts point to a power vacuum in the Republican Party that has left a wide opening for the former vice president to say his piece. Cheney may also be looking for some public vindication.

"Since they lost in 2008 and until they find a presidential candidate in 2012, leadership is up for grabs, and he's grabbing it," said ABC political analyst George Will.

On Sunday, the former vice president pointed to several Bush policies that the Obama administration has not been able to fully roll back, including the operation of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and the use of military tribunals.

Despite the differences in the Sunday talk show duels, there were some points of agreement. Cheney said he supports efforts to end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the military and the Obama administration's approach to the war in Afghanistan.

"When the [military] chiefs come forward and say, 'We think we can do it,' then it strikes me that it's time to reconsider the policy," Cheney said.

In Afghanistan, Obama approved a surge of 30,000 additional troops last year and his administration has increased drone attacks in neighboring Pakistan, where some al Qaeda leaders are thought to be hiding. At the same time, Obama set July 2011 as the date of the start of withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

"You know, I'm a complete supporter of what they're doing in Afghanistan. I think the president made the right decision to send troops into Afghanistan. I thought it took him a while to get there," Cheney said.

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