Using the White House's blog, a top aide to President Barack Obama on Wednesday dismissed former Vice President Dick Cheney's criticism about Obama's approach to dealing with terrorists as "the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay."
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, an offshoot of Osama bin Laden's group, claimed it was behind the attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner. Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old passenger, was arrested Friday after he allegedly tried to bring down the Northwest Airlines flight carrying 289 people by setting off an explosive device he had in his underwear. He was unsuccessful and nearby passengers helped restrain him.
Obama has ordered a pair of reviews about how Abdulmutallab was able to board the plane from Nigeria by way of Amsterdam despite warnings in November to the U.S. embassy from the suspect's father.
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said Cheney was taking part in the "same old Washington blame game" when he questioned Obama's actions after an attempted terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day. The Republican former vice president said Obama was "trying to pretend we are not at war" with terrorists.
"We are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren't, it makes us less safe," Cheney said. "Why doesn't he want to admit we're at war? It doesn't fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn't fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency — social transformation — the restructuring of American society."
The jab — the latest from the hawkish former vice president — prompted Pfeiffer to write on the White House's Web site: "I don't think anyone realizes this very hard reality more than President Obama."
Obama 'trying to pretend'
In his latest broadside at Obama, Cheney took issue with the administration.
"As I've watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war," Cheney told Politico. "He seems to think if he has a low-key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won't be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won't be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of Sept. 11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won't be at war."
Democrats have said the intelligence measures that failed were put in place during President George W. Bush's administration.
Obama kept a low profile in the days after the attack while on vacation here in his childhood home. Republican critics have said that suggests Obama was not engaged in a foiled terrorist attack on U.S. soil. And they pounced on early comments by administration officials claiming "the system worked."
The White House portrayed Cheney as part of the previous administration that took its eye off the threat in Afghanistan and poured its efforts into Iraq. Pfeiffer said Obama discussed the war in his January inaugural and has spoken repeatedly about the threats to the nation.
Obama, Pfeiffer wrote, is focused on action over politics and was not afraid to talk about the threats.
"The difference is this: President Obama doesn't need to beat his chest to prove it, and — unlike the last administration — we are not at war with a tactic ("terrorism"), we (are) at war with something that is tangible: al-Qaida and its violent extremist allies. And we will prosecute that war as long as the American people are endangered."