White House press secretary Robert Gibbs this afternoon hit back hard at former Vice President Dick Cheney for his criticism of the current administration, arguing that Cheney "seems to have forgotten his role in the last seven years of Afghanistan."
He said criticism from Cheney, who argues that an Obama administration delay in making a decision on a strategy going forward in Afghanistan hurts American allies and helps American enemies, is "curious" in light of the fact that "the vice president was for seven years not focused on Afghanistan."
It's "even more curious given the fact that an increase in troops sat on desks in [the Bush] White House, including the vice president's, for more than eight months, a resource request filled by President Obama in March," Gibbs continued.
"What Vice President Cheney calls 'dithering,' President Obama calls his solemn responsibility to the men and women in uniform and to the American public," said Gibbs. "I think we've all seen what happens when somebody doesn't take that responsibility seriously."
Gibbs noted there were fewer troops in Afghanistan under the Bush administration and wondered why Cheney is pushing so hard for new troops now in light of the fact that the Bush administration "resist[ed] adding an additional 25,000 troops" while in power.
The former vice president's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Wednesday night, while accepting an award from a conservative national security group, Cheney said that "signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries" – a reference to the review process now being undertaken by the Obama administration to decide what to do in Afghanistan.
The former vice president criticized White House claims that the Bush administration did not take Afghanistan seriously, noting that the Bush administration undertook a review of the war before leaving office that it presented to Mr. Obama's transition team.
Cheney said the Obama administration asked members of the Bush administration not to discuss the report. He suggested it bore "striking resemblance" to the administration the Obama administration announced earlier this year.
Asked about that specific charge, Gibbs said he has not looked at the Bush administration review. He told reporters that he doesn't know if Cheney's characterization is accurate.
Gibbs also noted that the review referenced by Cheney would have come relatively late in the war. He also again suggested that the Bush administration for eight months essentially ignored a commander's recommendation for additional troops.
The press secretary was asked if he is saying the troop request wasn't taken seriously.
"It wasn't -- whether it was taken seriously or not, it wasn't filled," he said. "I assume, since it wasn't filled, it was not taken seriously."
Asked if he is saying it is proof of unseriousness to not agree with a troop request from the field – the White House is currently debating a request for more troops from the top commander in Afghanistan – Gibbs said no.
"I'm simply saying, I think it's interesting that what -- what the vice president is suggesting the president isn't acting on is what the previous administration didn't act on," he said.