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Cheney, Biden Spar as Inauguration Day Draws Near


U.S. President George Bush and President-elect Barack Obama have vowed to make their White House transition as smooth and cordial as possible. But there appear to be tensions on the vice presidential level. Those frictions were on display Sunday on national television as Vice President Dick Cheney and Vice President-elect Joe Biden sparred in separate interviews.

Joe Biden says Dick Cheney has given what he calls unhealthy advice to President Bush. "[It is] not healthy for our national security, and it has not been consistent with our Constitution, in my view," Biden said on ABC's This Week program.

During the campaign, Biden called Cheney dangerous. He told This Week he still believes that is true, saying Cheney has tried to expand the powers of the presidency beyond the limits set by the Constitution.

"His notion of a unitary executive, meaning that in time of war essentially all power, you know, goes to the executive, I think is dead wrong," said Biden. "I think it was mistaken. I think it caused this administration, in adopting that notion, to overstep its constitutional bounds, but at a minimum to weaken our standing in the world and weaken our security."

Appearing on the Fox News Sunday program, Cheney said he does not take the criticism seriously.

"The fact of the matter is that, especially given the kind of conflict we are faced with today, we find ourselves in a situation where I believe you need strong executive leadership," said Cheney. "What we did in this administration is to exert that kind of authority."

But Biden maintains the Bush administration has overreached. He told ABC that he has been receiving the same sort of private intelligence briefings that are given at the White House.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney have said those briefings made them well aware of the extent of the threat facing the United States and the need for a strong executive. Biden said he views the evidence differently.

"I have learned nothing, thus far, that would change my fundamental view that Guantanamo should close, number one," said Biden. "And that, number two, the way in which we have conducted our policy in terms of both surveillance as well as the detainees has hurt our reputation around the world."

Biden said his approach to the vice presidency will be more restrained. Cheney said he has every right to do so.

"If he wants to diminish the office of vice president, that is obviously his call," said Cheney. "I think that President-Elect Obama will decide what he wants in a vice president. And apparently, from the way they are talking about it, he does not expect him to have as consequential a role as I have had during my time."

Cheney said his successor has not asked for any advice, and indicated he has nothing more to offer beyond what he has already said.

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