WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration issued a scathing response on Monday to criticism from former Vice President Dick Cheney, calling him part of a “Republican cabal” and saying his economic advice should be ignored.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs used his daily briefing to ridicule Cheney, who said in a CNN interview that President Barack Obama’s revamped policies on terrorism suspects would make the United States more vulnerable to attack.
“I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy so they trotted out the next most popular member of the Republican cabal,” Gibbs said in a sarcastic tone, referring to the conservative radio talk-show host whom Obama’s fellow Democrats have depicted as the new leader of the Republicans.
Soon after taking office on January 20, Obama started rolling back some of Republican predecessor George W. Bush’s most divisive national security policies.
He ordered the closing within a year of the internationally condemned Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba and an end to harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects held there.
“The president has made quite clear that keeping the American people safe and secure is the most serious job that he has each and every day,” Gibbs said in defending Obama’s decisions.
Cheney, who under Bush became one of the most powerful vice presidents, had championed tough interrogation methods implemented after the September 11 attacks of 2001, and was also an architect of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
“He is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack,” Cheney, in Sunday’s interview, said of Obama.
Gibbs pushed back hard on that point. “For seven-plus years, the very perpetrators that the vice president says he’s concerned about weren’t brought to justice,” he said.
“The president in the very first week of his administration chose to change that, to take ... these that had committed terrorist acts, and to finally bring about, instituting a process to bring about swift and certain justice,” he added.
Asked about Cheney’s suggestion that the White House was trying to take advantage of the economic crisis to expand government, Gibbs said, “I think not taking economic advice from Dick Cheney would be maybe the best possible outcome of yesterday’s interview.”
Asked whether his caustic tone in responding to Cheney was proper, Gibbs said, “Sometimes I ask forgiveness rather than for permission ... I hope my sarcasm didn’t mask the seriousness of the answer.”
Editing by Patricia Zengerle