President rebuts Cheney's criticism

Previous policy sparked anti-Americanism, Obama says

March 22, 2009|By Mark Silva | Mark Silva,Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -President Barack Obama, rejecting former Vice President Dick Cheney's contention that Obama has put the United States at greater risk of terrorism, suggests in an interview airing today on 60 Minutes that the previous administration's stance was an "advertisement for anti-American sentiment."

"How many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney?" Obama asks.

"It hasn't made us safer," Obama says. "What it has been is a great advertisement for anti-American sentiment."

The CBS News program says the interview is Obama's longest since taking office. The interview is edited down from a 90-minute session conducted Friday evening. Obama addresses the economy, the proposed bonus tax for companies that have collected federal bailout money, health care, bailouts for automakers, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, CBS says.

Cheney, who has been outspoken in his criticism of the Obama administration, said on CNN last Sunday that Obama has increased the nation's risk of terrorist attacks by jettisoning elements of the Bush administration's aggressive approach.

Since taking office, Obama has announced plans to close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility, banned waterboarding, ordered the closure of secret interrogation sites and ordered CIA interrogators to abide by the Army Field Manual.

"Now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack," Cheney said of Obama.

Former President George W. Bush has been more reserved in his public comments, explaining in Calgary, Alberta, last week that Obama "deserves my silence."

Asked by CBS News' Steve Kroft about releasing prisoners who have returned to terrorist groups, Obama replies: "There is no doubt that we have not done a particularly effective job in sorting through who are truly dangerous individuals ... to make sure [they] are not a threat to us."

The president also defends his Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, against growing criticism of the government's handling of the financial crisis. Were Geithner to tender his resignation, the president says he would tell him: "Sorry, buddy, you've still got the job."

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