Cheney: Hey, Don't Blame Us For Mess

Seal of the Office of the Vice President and Dick Cheney AP

Former Vice President Dick Cheney says it wasn't the Bush-Cheney administration's fault for the nation's economic mess the new administration is trying to clean up.

Responding to President Barack Obama's comments about the fiscal troubles he inherited upon taking office in January, Cheney admitted Sunday that Mr. Obama did come into power amid very difficult economic circumstances, but added, "I don't think you can blame the Bush administration for the creation of those circumstances. It's a global financial problem."

The former vice president also said that Mr. Obama's overturning of Bush administration terrorism-fighting initiatives makes Americans less safe.

Mr. Obama has suspended military trials for suspected terrorists and announced he will close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as overseas sites where the CIA has held some detainees. The president also ordered CIA interrogators to abide by the U.S. Army Field Manual's regulations for treatment of detainees and denounced waterboarding - part of the Bush program of enhanced interrogation - as torture.

Asked on CNN's "State of the Union" if he thought President Obama has made Americans less safe with those actions, Cheney replied, "I do.

"I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11," Cheney said.

"I think that's a great success story. It was done legally. It was done in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles," he said. "President Obama campaigned against it all
across the country. And now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack."

While disputing the previous administration's role in the current economic environment, Cheney said that it is the federal government's responsibility to correct the problems, including matters of regulation.

"The key [to success], I think, is the extent to which they fix the problem with the financial institutions in the society," Cheney said. "That is a federal government responsibility. It's the banks, it's the Federal Reserve, it's the FDIC, it's all of the financial regulations and management of our currency that is a federal responsibility. And I look to that as an area that they've got to get right in order for everything else to flow."

Cheney says the idea that fault can be assigned to the previous administration is "interesting rhetoric" and added, "I don't think anybody really cares a lot about that."

While discussing the question of fault, Cheney suggested that Democrats on Capitol Hill had tried to block his administration's efforts to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Yet it was a lobbying group with GOP ties that convinced leading Republicans in the Senate to kill a Republican-sponsored reform bill in 2005. And Politico reported that it was Republican holds in the Senate that delayed a reform bill in late 2007 that would have allowed the terms of mortgages to be rewritten.

On another matter pertaining to the departing administration, Cheney said his ex-chief of staff, "Scooter" Libby, was left hanging in the wind because President Bush didn't pardon him.

Cheney says the issue of pardoning Libby was a source of deep disagreement between himself and Mr. Bush as his presidency came to a close. Cheney declined to describe just how heated those differences became.

Libby was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice in the investigation of the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

Mr. Bush commuted Libby's sentence and saved him from serving time in prison, but Libby remains a convicted felon.

Cheney does say flatly that Libby is an innocent man who deserves a pardon.

Cheney said that, now out of office, he is getting used to being out of the loop when it comes to the nation's secrets.

"I don't get up at 5 a.m. I don't receive that CIA brief every morning," Cheney said. "On the one hand I miss it. I've been 40 years in the business, so I'm used to it. But this is also the fourth time I've transitioned out of government. I know there are good things and bad. I'm enjoying spending time with my family," he said.

For information, Cheney uses a BlackBerry - "I get a lot there" - and the Kindle wireless device that downloads newspapers, magazines and books. "I follow a lot of issues," Cheney said.

Then there's the car. The Secret Service did not allow him to drive for the eight years he was vice president.

"Driving myself now," Cheney said. "Secret Service follows me around, but they now let me drive myself."
  • CBSNews

Comments