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Biden: Cheney 'Trying to Rewrite History'

Carol E. Lee

Vice President Joe Biden rejected his predecessor's assertions that the Obama administration is soft on terrorism. (Photo: AP photo composite by POLITICO)

Vice President
Joe Biden hurtled a stinging critique at former Vice President Dick
Cheney, rejecting his predecessor's assertions that the Obama
administration is soft on terrorism.

In an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press," Biden said Cheney "either
is misinformed or he is misinforming" and accused him of "trying to
rewrite history."

"Let me choose my words carefully here," Biden said in an interview
taped Saturday night from Vancouver. "Dick Cheney's a fine fellow. He's
entitled to his own opinion. He's not entitled to rewrite history. He's
not entitled to his own facts."

Addressing Cheney's criticism of the Obama administration's decision to
offer alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad a civilian
trail and to read the Christmas Day Bomber his Miranda rights, Biden
argued that the Bush administration also tried accused terrorists in
civilian court and Mirandized the shoe bomber.

Biden specifically challenged Cheney's criticism that Obama is not treating the fight against terrorism as a war.

"I don't think the Vice - the former Vice President Dick Cheney
listens," Biden said. "The President of the United States said in the
State of the Union, ‘We're at war with al Qaeda.' He stated this - and
by the way, we're pursuing that war with a vigor like it's never been
seen before."

Biden said while the Bush administration "did their best," the Obama
administration is waging a stronger fight against al Qaeda than its

"There has never been as much emphasis and resources brought against Al
Qaeda. The success rate exceeds anything that occurred in the last
administration," Biden said. "It's simply not true that the President
of the United States is not prosecuting the war against Al Qaeda with a
vigor that's never been seen before. It's real. It's deep. It's

Biden said specifically that the Obama administration's efforts have
killed 12 of al Qaeda's top 20 leaders and 100 of their associates.

"They are in fact not able to do anything remotely like they were in
the past," Biden said of al Qaeda. "They are on the run. I don't know
where Dick Cheney has been. Look, it's one thing, again, to criticize.
It's another thing to sort of rewrite history. What is he talking

Cheney, who as vice president was a chief architect of the Bush
administration's policies for fighting terrorism and handling accused
terrorists, has been one of the White House's most high-profile critics
since Obama took office. In an unusual move for a former vice
president, he has repeatedly issued harsh assessments of the
administration's handling of national security and foreign policy
issues over the past year.

called Cheney "a fine fellow" twice and declined to speculate on
Cheney's motive. But he did not hold back in his assessment of the
former vice president.

"All I know is he's factually, substantively wrong on the major
criticisms he is asserting," Biden said. "He either is misinformed or
he is misinforming."

Biden's comments were made public an hour before Cheney is scheduled to
appear live on ABC's "This Week," where he's expected to argue that
that the stakes are too high for the Obama administration to reverse
course on policies that kept the country safe after 9/11.

Biden is set to be back on the Sunday morning airwaves live at 10:30 a.m. on CBS's "Face the Nation" to respond to Cheney.


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In his "Meet the Press" interview Biden said President Obama will
ultimately decide where to hold the trial of Mohammad, who is now
unlikely to be tried in civilian court in New York as the
administration had originally ordered. Biden also did not rule out a
military commission.

"I am not ruling anything out," he said. "A military tribunal is
available. It is the less preferable way to go. But one way or another,
[Mohammad] will be held accountable."

Questioned about whether the administration has already decided that
Mohammad would continue to be detained if he is acquitted, Biden would
not confirm or deny that but said there is "no doubt that he would not
be acquitted."

"I assure you, I assure you, acquitted or not, he will not be walking
the streets of the United States of America," Biden said. "And he will
not be acquitted."

Biden's interview leaned heavily on foreign policy. And while he
clarified his remark earlier this week that success in Iraq would be
one of President Obama's great achievements, which drew some criticism
because the Iraq plan was put in place under the Bush administration -
"What I meant by that is I think he has taken office and managed the
situation incredibly well in Iraq." - when asked if he believes the war
there was worth it he said, "No."

"I don't think the war was worth it in the sense that we paid a
horrible price, not only in loss of life, the way the war was
mishandled from the outset," Biden said. "But we took our eye off the
ball, putting us in a much different and more dangerous position in
Afghanistan. We lost support around the world. It's taken a lot of hard
work to get it back. But we were handed - we were dealt a hand, and I
think we're handling it incredibly well. ... I think we're handling it
very well, the Iraqis are handling it well. And we built on the
positive things that the Bush administration had initiated. And we have
jettisoned those things that were negative."

Iran, Biden said he believes China, the lone holdout, will eventually
agree to sanctions, and he disputed President Ahmadinajad's claim that
the country is a nuclear power.

"It is not a nuclear power," Biden said. "And I believe we'll get the
support of China to continue to impose sanctions on Iran to isolate
them, to make it clear that in fact they cannot move forward. The
progress that Iran has made on the nuclear front is greatly exaggerated
in my view. If you take a look at what's happened-- anyway, I think
we've made significant progress."

On domestic issues, Biden declined to confirm reports that he advised
President Obama last January not to pursue health care reform because
of the economic crisis. Instead he reiterated Obama's commitment to
getting health care legislation.

"Given what's happened, given the trouble that health care reform is
now in, do you think that that advice should have been followed?" "Meet
the Press" host David Gregory asked.

"Well, first of all, I'm not acknowledging what advice I gave," Biden
said. "The advice I gave to the president is private, that's why he
keeps asking for it, and as long as it stays private. I think the
president made the right judgment in deciding that in order to bend the
cost curve and prevent people from being victimized by health insurance
costs that we had to move and we had to move aggressively."

Biden said Obama has three goals in legislation that brings down the
cost of premiums, gets Medicare and Medicaid under control and reforms
insurance company practices, such as denying coverage to people with
pre-existing conditions.

"[W]e think it's absolutely essential for the economic health of this country that we move forward on health care," Biden said.

The vice president also predicted that come the November elections,
which will be a referendum on Obama, the climate for Democrats will be
much more favorable than it is right now.

"[B]y the time we get around to November, in addition to bringing home
90,000 American troops out of Iraq, the story of this administration is
going to be more clearly told, and we're gonna do just fine," Biden

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