May 13, 2009 -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney may have largely stayed under the radar during his time in the Bush administration, but he is not going softly into that good night, seemingly launching a one-man campaign to fight for his legacy and -- in his view -- the safety of the nation.
He took his case to the airwaves again Tuesday, and lashed out at the Obama team's decision to soon hand over 44 photos showing abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan to the American Civil Liberties Union as a judge had ordered. Cheney said releasing the photos would only make the country less safe.
"What I think is important is that there be some balance to what is being released. The fact of the matter is the administration appears to be committed to putting out information that sort of favors their point of view in terms of being opposed to, for example, enhanced interrogation techniques," Cheney said in a Fox News interview.
The photographs are part of a 2003 Freedom of Information Act court case by the ACLU for all information relating to the treatment of detainees. Courts had ruled in favor of releasing the photographs into public view even though Bush administration officials argued that releasing the photographs would violate the Geneva Conventions, which protect prisoners of war and detained civilians "against insults and public curiosity" and it would also violate U.S. obligations toward detainees and could even prompt outrage against the United States.
Cheney wants Obama to fight all the way to Supreme Court.
In recent weeks, the former vice president -- on what might be called a "President Obama is making us less safe" campaign -- has protested everything from Obama's release of the memos outlining harsh interrogation techniques that the United Nations considers to be torture to the president's more stringent rules on these techniques and his decision to close the detainee center at Guantanamo Bay.
According to Cheney, such interrogation techniques -- supported by him and former President Bush, and discontinued by Obama -- in many cases help yield valuable information, and he doesn't consider the techniques to be torture.
The former vice president is so sure that he has taken the unusual step of seeking to de-classify memos that he said would validate his arguments.
A Family Affair
While Cheney has not stated directly whether he believes the United States is in for another terrorist attack, he did imply Obama's policies were weakening the country's defense.
"I think that we are stripping ourselves of some of the capabilities that we used in order to block, if you will, or disrupt activities by al Qaeda that would have led to additional attacks. I think that's an important debate to have," Cheney said on Fox.
"I don't think we should just roll over when the new administration says -- accuses of us committing torture, which we did not, or somehow violating the law, which we did not. I think you need to stand up and respond to that, and that's what I've done," he said.
The criticism of Obama's policies has become a family affair. Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president and a former State Department official, joined the bandwagon Tuesday, lashing out at the administration on its decision to release detainee abuse photos as "siding with terrorists."
"It is really appalling that the administration is taking this step. … I have heard from families of sevice members, from families of 9/11 victims, this question about, you know, 'When did it become so fashionable for us to side, really, with the terrorists?'" Liz Cheney said on Fox News. "You know, for us to put information out that hurts American soldiers?"
"They seem only to be interested in releasing things that really paint America in a negative light and don't give the American people a full picture of what went on," she said.
The White House has responded by saying its predecessor's policies inflamed the Muslim world against the United States, and by sending more troops to Afghanistan and focusing more on Pakistan, the president is taking on al Qaeda more aggressively.
White House Defends Policies
"Without putting words in everyone's mouth, I think there's been some agreement across party lines that Guantanamo Bay has not made us a safer country," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday, referring to the fact that Obama's election opponent, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also pledged to shutter Gitmo.
Gibbs also said that by increasing the troop level in Afghanistan, Obama is more aggressively fighting the terrorists who attacked the U.S. on 9/11. "I think the best way to keep this country safe is to go at the terrorist threat, something that the previous administration didn't do," Gibbs said.
While the idea of a former vice president criticizing the current administration is not new -- Al Gore delivered scathing anti-Bush speeches and was a leading critic of Bush's policies in Iraq -- it is unusual for a former veep to be so publicly critical this early in a new president's term.
In March -- just weeks into the new administration -- Cheney provoked the White House by stating on CNN's State of the Union: "He [Obama] is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack.
The administration's response: "I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy so they trotted out the next most popular member of the Republican cabal," Gibbs said, adding that "not taking economic advice from Dick Cheney could be the best possible outcome of yesterday's interview."
Vice President Joe Biden has also made it clear his predecessor is "dead wrong" on Obama's foreign policies.
"The last administration left us in a weaker posture than we've been any time since World War II: less regarded in the world, stretched more thinly than we ever have been in the past, two wars under way, virtually no respect in entire parts of the world," Biden said in an interview with CNN.
Hillary Clinton took it one step further and questioned Cheney's credibility altogether.
When asked at a congressional hearing in April whether the secretary of state was in favor of releasing documents Cheney has requested, Clinton responded: "Well, it won't surprise you, I don't consider him a particularly reliable source of information."
While Cheney may be on the forefront, defending his position and decision during his time in office, other Bush-era officials have stayed relatively quiet. Even some Republican supporters are not on his side.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who has been critical of the president's national security policies and endorsed McCain last year, said Cheney is wrong on this subject.
"We're not less safe," Lieberman said on MSNBC. "On balance, we remain as safe as we can possibly be in a world in which there is Islamist extremists who want to attack us."
For now, the president has steered clear of making any direct comments about Cheney's spot in the limelight, except for a joking stab at the White House Correspondents Dinner: "Dick Cheney was supposed to be here, but he is very busy working on his memoirs, tentatively titled 'How to Shoot Friends and Interrogate People,'" the president said jokingly.
As for Republicans, many of them say they wish the former vice president -- one of the least popular figures in the party -- would go back into an undisclosed location.