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Biden vs. Cheney: three points of dispute

Vice President Joe Biden and former Vice President Dick Cheney dueled Sunday over the terrorist threat and the appropriate US response. They are at odds over the Iraq war, the Christmas Day bomber, and the nature of the terrorist threat confronting America.

By Cheryl SullivanStaff writer / February 14, 2010

Vice President Joe Biden appears from Vancouver, Canada, on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, Sunday.

William Plowman/NBC/AP

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The No. 2 officials of the Obama administration and the preceding Bush administration on Sunday cited at least three disagreements concerning the terrorist threat and the appropriate US response: the value of the Iraq war, the nature of any future terrorist attacks on the US, and how to handle the accused Christmas Day bomber.

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Vice President Joe Biden and former Vice President Dick Cheney exchanged tits for tats in a public tete-à-tete during an unusual string of separate appearances on Sunday news shows. Mr. Cheney has been a vocal critic of the Obama approach to what the Bush administration called "the global war on terror," and he made clear Sunday that, in his view, the war goes on.

The two No. 2s didn't part company on everything, but the points of departure came through loud and clear. Here are three key ones.

The Iraq war. Though polls show that a majority of Americans see the Iraq war as a mistake, Cheney reiterated his oft-stated position that the US invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein was "the right thing to do." During an appearance on ABC's "This Week," he said: "We got rid of one of the worst dictators of the 20th century. We took down his government, a man who'd produced and used weapons of mass destruction, a man who'd started two different wars, a man who had a relationship with terror," Cheney said.

Vice President Biden, speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," praised the Obama administration's management of "the hand we were dealt" in Iraq. But he also said "I don't think the war was worth it." Biden cited "a horrible price, not only in loss of life, the way the war was mishandled from the outset, but we took our eye off the ball, putting us in a much different and more dangerous position in Afghanistan, [and] we lost support around the world." About 4,370 US service members have died in Iraq since the war began in 2003, and the government has spent close to $700 billion to pursue it.

Nature of any future terrorist attack. Cheney took issue with a Biden statement on Feb. 10 that "the idea of there being a massive attack in the United States like 9/11 is unlikely." Biden's explanation for this view: "What's happening, particularly with Al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula, they have decided to move in the direction of much more small-bore but devastatingly frightening attacks." He cited the Richard Reid "shoe bomber" case, the Christmas Day attempt to blow up an airliner above Detroit, "or someone just strapping a backpack on them with explosives that are indigenous."

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