Biden, Cheney talk terror

Politicians disagree on wars, security on morning TV shows

February 15, 2010|By Katherine Skiba | Tribune Newspapers


Vice President Joe Biden and former Vice President Dick Cheney sparred Sunday from the safe distance of separate talk shows, disagreeing on the greatest threat to the U.S., the use of torture and going to war in Iraq.

The Democratic vice president - and the Republican he replaced - found little common ground in a spectacle that played out over three morning-TV programs.

A rare zone of agreement was the administration's execution of the war in Afghanistan. But, even then, Cheney suggested President Barack Obama should have acted faster in deciding to send in more troops.

"I thought it took him a while to get there," Cheney told ABC News' "This Week."

Biden, speaking from the Olympic Games in Vancouver, was shown live on CBS' "Face the Nation" and on a taped segment on NBC's "Meet the Press."

On today's biggest threat, Biden told CBS al-Qaida was metastasizing into smaller-bore operations arising from the Arabian Peninsula.

But Cheney said he believed another Sept.11-caliber terrorist attack was in the cards and said it was "dead wrong" to think otherwise. He warned the next large-scale attack could involve a nuclear weapon or biological agent and said the Obama administration needed to do everything it could to prevent it.

Cheney has been a loud and frequent critic of the current administration, saying it has been soft on national security matters. Biden sought to rebut that view.

"We are at war with al-Qaida, and we are pursuing that war with a vigor like it's never been seen before," he said. "We've eliminated 12 of their top 20 people. We have taken out 100 of their associates. ... They are on the run."

Then he took a jab at Cheney, saying he was either "misinformed or he is misinforming."

On the Iraq war, Biden described successes in winding it down but said he didn't think the war was worth it. He cited the "horrible price" in loss of life and said the country took its "eyes off the ball" in Afghanistan.

Cheney, though, said he believed "very deeply" that Iraq "was the right thing to do," adding, "We got rid of one of the worst dictators of the 20th century."

On the attempted bombing of a Northwest airliner on Christmas Day, Cheney said the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, should have been treated as an enemy combatant instead of a civilian criminal. He maintained the case showed the administration wasn't equipped to deal with the aftermath of an attempted attack.

Biden countered by saying Abdulmutallab had been treated the same as the so-called shoe bomber, Richard Reid, during George W. Bush's administration.

On the avowed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Cheney said it would be wrong to try him in New York City.

The administration announced plans to try him and four associates in federal court there but has since backed away amid complaints about costs and security. Biden said a decision on where to try him was being made and that a military court was a possibility.

Cheney said Mohammed should be tried before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He noted there was "great reluctance" in Congress to appropriate money to close down the detention center there.

Cheney, when asked if the detention center would be open when Obama left office, said he "wouldn't be surprised" and called it a "valuable facility."

On waterboarding, Cheney said no tool should be off the table in fighting terror. But Biden said he could never envision using it, remarking: "It's not effective."

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