Video: Biden, Cheney square off on security

  1. Closed captioning of: Biden, Cheney square off on security

    >>> was injured there.

    >>> u.s. and afghan forces are pushing deeper into a taliban stronghold in southern afghanistan in an major offensive. the u.s. is apologizing for an incident sunday, when two u.s. rockets killed 12 civilians.

    >>> and the war in iraq and the treatment of terror suspects were big topics sunday in an extraordinary clash on tv. nbc's white house correspondent, savannah guthrie has more on that. savannah, good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning, amy. on one side it was vice president joe biden . on the other, former vice president, dick cheney taking their feud over national security to the airwaves. it was a split-screen sunday showdown.

    >> dick cheney is a fine fellow. but he is not entitled to rewrite history without it being challenged.

    >> i, i guess i shouldn't be surprised about i my friend, joe biden .

    >> never shy about criticizing the obama administration --

    >> why do you think dick cheney is speaking out and being so critical of the president and the administration so publicly?

    >> all i know is he's factually substantively wrong. on the major criticisms he is asserting.

    >> reporter: but cheney continued the attack, saying the administration had botched the interrogation of christmas day bombing suspect, umar farouk abdulmutallab, by reading him his miranda rights .

    >> the proper way to deal with it would have been to treat him as an enemy combatant.

    >> i don't know what dick's been doing lately.

    >> we did exactly what he did with the shoe bomber, richard reid .

    >> reporter: but cheney slams the administration for not using tougher interrogation tactics.

    >> you believe they should have the option of everything up to and including waterboarding?

    >> i believe you ought to have all of those capabilities on the table.

    >> reporter: watching the interview, vice president biden was quick to respond.

    >> that's dick cheney . thank god the last administration didn't listen to him at the end.

    >> reporter: cheney also scoffed at biden's claims that iraq will go down as an obama administration success because the war is ending now.

    >> i'm glad he now believes iraq is a success. it ought to go with the healthy dose of thank you, george bush up front.

    >> we're pursuing the war with vigor like it's never been seen before. they are on the run. i don't know where dick cheney has been.

    >> reporter: former vice president dick cheney did have one compliment for the administration saying he supported the president's decision to send more troops to afghanistan. amy?

    >> thank you.

updated 2/15/2010 8:00:54 AM ET 2010-02-15T13:00:54

Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday belittled Dick Cheney's criticism of the Obama administration's commitment to fighting terrorism as either "misinformed or he is misinforming" and said the Iraq wasn't worth it because of "the horrible price" paid.

The former vice president fired back gently at his successor, saying, "I guess I shouldn't be surprised by my friend Joe Biden." Cheney also said that he disagreed with decisions by Bush officials to place shoe bomber Richard Reid on trial in civilian court and to release terrorism suspects from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The public back-and-forth between current and former administrations played out across the Sunday talks like a pingpong match: Biden's NBC appearance taped Saturday night from the Olympics in Canada, allowing Cheney to respond on ABC's "This Week," before Biden answered later on CBS' "Face the Nation."

In getting in the last world, Biden said: "Thank God the last administration didn't listen to him in the end" on how to handle terrorism suspects.

The vice president insisted again that the ongoing debate on the best way to bring terrorist suspects to justice ignored that the Obama administration was acting on the precedents set by the Bush administration. Cheney was vice president under Bush for eight years.

"His fight seems to be with the last administration. We did exactly the same thing," Biden said, and he accused Cheney of not listening to what's going on around him and of trying to rewrite history.

Cheney has been a leading Republican critic of the Obama administration's handling of national security, contending that President Barack Obama is "trying to pretend" that the U.S. is not at war with terrorists. The result, Cheney says, is that Americans are less safe.

Biden said that under Obama's direction, the U.S. has been more successful at killing al-Qaida leaders and their followers than it was during the years George W. Bush and Cheney were in the White House.

"We've eliminated 12 of their top 20 people. We have taken out 100 of their associates," said Biden. "They are in fact not able to do anything remotely like they were in the past. They are on the run. I don't know where Dick Cheney has been. Look, it's one thing, again, to criticize. It's another thing to sort of rewrite history. What is he talking about?"

Cheney, Biden said, "either is misinformed or he is misinforming. But the facts are that his assertions are not accurate."

‘Eye off the ball’
Biden also said the Iraq war hasn't been worth its "horrible price" and that the Bush mishandled it from the outset by taking its "eye off the ball." That, he said, left the U.S. in a more dangerous position in Afghanistan, the al-Qaida stronghold where Osama bin Laden and his cohorts plotted the Sept 11 terror attacks.

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The war has also cost the United States support from other nations around the world, he said.

Cheney took issue with Biden's assertion that the Obama White House had been successful in winding down the Iraq war. "For them to try to take credit for what happened in Iraq is a little strange," Cheney said. "It ought to go with a healthy dose of 'thank you, George Bush.'"

Still, Biden said Iraq will have successful parliamentary elections next month and the U.S. is likely to bring home some 90,000 combat troops by summer's end.

More than 4,370 U.S. military personnel have died in Iraq since Bush ordered the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been wounded or killed.

Turning to the main issue on the minds of most voters, Biden said Obama inherited a shrinking economy with financial institutions that were on the edge of collapse, threatening to move the world into a depression.

Biden said the economy expanded at 5.8 percent during the last quarter and the U.S. has "stopped the hemorrhaging of jobs."

He said there was "tangible evidence" economy was moving in the right direction.

By the time of November's elections, he said, "in addition to bringing home 90,000 American troops, troops out of Iraq, the story of this administration is going to be more clearly told, and we're going to just fine."  

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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