Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and former Vice President Dick Cheney engaged in the latest round of their war of words on Sunday in dueling television appearances, in which each offered sharply different positions on national security and forceful defenses of their administrations’ policies.
Mr. Biden accused Mr. Cheney of trying to rewrite history in his critique of how the Obama administration has handled terrorism suspects and other threats to national security.
Mr. Biden said some of the Obama administration efforts that have been criticized by Mr. Cheney were similar to decisions made during the Bush administration. He said Mr. Cheney’s fight seemed to be with his own administration.
“That’s Dick Cheney,” Mr. Biden said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “Thank God the last administration didn’t listen to him at the end.”
Mr. Cheney, on “This Week” on ABC, criticized the Obama administration’s handling of the attempted bombing of a jetliner in December, saying, “It is clear once again thatPresident Obama is trying to pretend that we are not at war.” He said “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding, should have been an option when questioning the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
Mr. Cheney also said the Obama administration was wrongly trying to take credit for any progress in Iraq. “If they had had their way, if we’d followed the policies they’d pursued from the outset or advocated from the outset,” he said, “Saddam Hussein would still be in power in Baghdad today.”
The back-and-forth between Mr. Biden and Mr. Cheney highlighted the clashing visions of their administrations, particularly on national security, as well as efforts by conservatives to portray Mr. Obama as weak on that issue.
But some of Mr. Cheney’s criticisms of the Obama administration on Sunday were more muted than his remarks have been in recent weeks, and he went so far as to express support for Mr. Obama’s policy in Afghanistan. He chuckled while viewing a recording of Mr. Biden’s comments, saying, “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by my friend Joe Biden.”
As he has before, Mr. Cheney made no secret of his disagreement with many eventual Bush administration decisions on how to handle terrorism suspects, including whether to try them in criminal courts.
He also distanced himself from Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, who suggested a week ago that President Obama could help himself politically if he declared war on Iran. “I don’t think a president can make a judgment like that on the basis of politics,” Mr. Cheney said.
Mr. Cheney also said the time had come to reconsider the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which prohibits openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the military. “Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has indicated his belief that we ought to support a change in the policy,” Mr. Cheney said. “My guess is the policy will be changed.”
The televised appearances occurred in a quintessential Washington fashion: on successive Sunday television programs, which allowed each man to hear what the other had said and then respond.
Mr. Biden went first, on “Meet the Press” on NBC, which was recorded Saturday in Vancouver, the site of the Winter Olympics. That allowed Mr. Cheney to view Mr. Biden’s appearance on Sunday morning and then respond to it on ABC. But Mr. Biden got the last word, appearing on CBS and responding to what Mr. Cheney had said on ABC.
Mr. Biden said that under Mr. Obama, the United States had been more successful at killing the leaders of Al Qaeda. “We’ve eliminated 12 of their top people, we have taken out 100 of their associates,” Mr. Biden said. “They were in fact not able to do anything remotely like they were in the past. They are on the run. I don’t know where Dick Cheney has been.”