Cheney gives Obama some credit (sort of) on national security

Former Vice President Cheney applauded Obama for his Afghanistan strategy and acknowledged he 'inherited' a difficult situation with Iran's nuclear program. But those arrows are still flying.

Fred Watkins/ABC/AP
In this photo, Vice President Dick Cheney is shown during an interview on ABC's 'This Week' in Washington Sunday.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, lead defender of the Bush legacy and critic-in-chief of President Obama, lambasted the Democratic administration again Sunday, saying it underestimates the terrorist threat and has no process for dealing with terrorism suspects in its custody. And those were just a few of the arrows he let fly during his appearance on ABC's "This Week."

But this conclusion can't be avoided: Apparently, the Obama administration is not completely bumbling in the eyes of Mr. Cheney.

First, George W. Bush's vice president commended Obama for his handling of the war in Afghanistan – with barely a whiff of criticism.

"I'm a complete supporter of what they're doing in Afghanistan," Cheney told "This Week" host Jonathan Karl. (For a complete transcript, click here.) "I think the president made the right decision to send troops into Afghanistan. I thought it took him a while to get there."

He also praised Obama's choice of putting Gen. Stanley McChrystal in charge of the Afghanistan operation.

"Having Stan McChrystal now in charge in Afghanistan I think is an excellent choice. ... I'm not a critic of what they're doing, in terms of how they're dealing with that situation."

Of one accord on Christmas Day bombing suspect?

Of course, praise from Cheney is, for Obama's liberal base of supporters, akin to praise from Darth Vader. So few could be ecstatic with Cheney's characterization of the president's evolving view toward the accused Christmas Day bomber.

Cheney appears relieved to see that the president has come 'round to seeing the Christmas Day bombing attempt as something more than an act of an isolated extremist.

"We found out over time, obviously – and [Obama] eventually changed his – his assessment – but that, in fact, this was an individual who'd been trained by Al Qaeda, who'd been part of a larger conspiracy." Cheney characterized the bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound airliner as "closer to being an act of war than it was the act of an isolated extremist" – something, he adds, that the Obama administration was "slow" to recognize (but nonetheless now is seeing it his way, in his view).

A few more kind words

In balancing his broadsides and references to Obama "mistakes," Cheney acknowledged that Obama has "inherited" a difficult problem in what to do about Iran and its nuclear fuel enrichment program. And, he said, it probably is "time to reconsider" the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gay service members, just as Obama is doing.

So, are Cheney and Obama as far apart as it seems? One test might be what happens to self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. On Sunday, Obama's vice president, Joe Biden, defended the initial decision to hold Mr. Mohammed's trial in a federal court. But he also allowed that trial before a military commission remains an option – just as Cheney insists is the best course of action.


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