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Clinton Says Cheney Criticism of Obama on Iraq Was 'Unseemly'

Image: Former President Bill Clinton speaks to gathered participants at the annual gathering of the Clinton Global Initiative America, at the Sheraton Downtown, in Denver, on June 24.

Former President Bill Clinton speaks to gathered participants at the annual gathering of the Clinton Global Initiative America, at the Sheraton Downtown, in Denver, on June 24. AP

Former President Bill Clinton told NBC News on Tuesday that former Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent remarks on Iraq amounted to “attacking the administration for not doing an adequate job of cleaning up the mess that he made.”

Cheney, in an Op-Ed and a YouTube video last week, said that President Barack Obama had emboldened jihadists by mishandling the crisis in Iraq, where Sunni insurgents have rampaged across northern cities.

Clinton responded in an interview from Denver, where he is hosting a conference of the Clinton Global Initiative, his post-presidency foundation.

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“I believe if they hadn’t gone to war in Iraq, none of this would be happening,” the former president told David Gregory in the interview, which will air Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

He continued: “Mr. Cheney has been incredibly adroit for the last six years or so attacking the administration for not doing an adequate job of cleaning up the mess that he made. I think it’s unseemly.”

“And I give President Bush, by the way, a lot of credit for trying to stay out of this debate and letting other people work through it.”

In an Op-Ed for The Wall Street Journal, written with his daughter Liz, Cheney wrote that Obama “abandoned” Iraq by withdrawing American troops in 2011 without leaving some forces behind.

“Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many,” the former vice president wrote. He concluded that Obama was securing a legacy “as the man who betrayed our past and squandered our freedom.”

In 2007, during his wife’s presidential campaign, Clinton said that he “opposed Iraq from the beginning.” His aides told reporters that Clinton had supported giving weapons inspectors more time.

In May 2003, two months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Clinton said that he supported President George W. Bush’s authority “to stand up against weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” according to The Associated Press. He was also quoted praising Bush’s early handling of the conflict, the AP reported.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, as a senator in 2002, voted for the authorization of force against Iraq. She wrote in her recently released memoir, “Hard Choices,” that she “got it wrong. Plain and simple.”

The interview with Bill Clinton on Tuesday covered a range of topics. Among the highlights:

— On his wife’s potential presidential campaign in 2016, Clinton said: “I’m a foot soldier in an army. I will do what I am instructed to do.” He said that whether to run “has to be her decision.”

— Clinton said that his wife was not out of touch, despite political criticism she drew for saying that the Clintons were “dead broke” when they left the White House in 2001. “It is factually true that we were several million dollars in debt,” Bill Clinton said. “Everybody is now assuming that what happened in the intervening years was automatic.”

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“She’s not out of touch,” he said. “She advocated and worked as a senator for things that were good for ordinary people. And before that, all her life.”

— On Benghazi, the former president said that Republicans in Congress were employing a double standard in expressing outrage. When diplomatic personnel will killed during the Bush administration, he said, “How many outraged Republican members of Congress were there? Zero.”

— On Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana, Clinton made a joke — “Rocky Mountain high?” — and then said that it was a matter best left to the states, including on developing quality controls. “There’s pot and there’s pot,” he said. “What’s in it? What's going to happen? There are all these questions.”