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Joe Biden says Dick Cheney is misinformed or misleading

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden wears gloves with the Olympic logo on it during the ski jumping normal hill qualification at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, Saturday.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden wears gloves with the Olympic logo on it during the ski jumping normal hill qualification at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, Saturday.
Elaine Thompson, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday belittled Dick Cheney's criticism of the Obama administration's commitment to fighting terrorism as either "misinformed or he is misinforming" and said the Iraq wasn't worth it because of "the horrible price" paid.

The former vice president fired back gently at his successor, saying, "I guess I shouldn't be surprised by my friend Joe Biden." Cheney also said that he disagreed with decisions by Bush officials to place shoe bomber Richard Reid on trial in civilian court and to release terrorism suspects from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The public back-and-forth between current and former administrations played out across the Sunday talks like a pingpong match: Biden's NBC appearance taped Saturday night from the Olympics in Canada, allowing Cheney to respond on ABC's "This Week," before Biden answered later on CBS' "Face the Nation."

In getting in the last world, Biden said: "Thank God the last administration didn't listen to him in the end" on how to handle terrorism suspects.

The vice president insisted again that the ongoing debate on the best way to bring terrorist suspects to justice ignored that the Obama administration was acting on the precedents set by the Bush administration. Cheney was vice president under Bush for eight years.

"His fight seems to be with the last administration. We did exactly the same thing," Biden said, and he accused Cheney of not listening to what's going on around him and of trying to rewrite history.

Cheney has been a leading Republican critic of the Obama administration's handling of national security, contending that President Barack Obama is "trying to pretend" that the U.S. is not at war with terrorists. The result, Cheney says, is that Americans are less safe.

Biden said that under Obama's direction, the U.S. has been more successful at killing al-Qaida leaders and their followers than it was during the years George W. Bush and Cheney were in the White House.

"We've eliminated 12 of their top 20 people. We have taken out 100 of their associates," said Biden. "They are 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. Look, it's one thing, again, to criticize. It's another thing to sort of rewrite history. What is he talking about?"

Cheney, Biden said, "either is misinformed or he is misinforming. But the facts are that his assertions are not accurate."

Biden also said the Iraq war hasn't been worth its "horrible price" and that the Bush mishandled it from the outset by taking its "eye off the ball." That, he said, left the U.S. in a more dangerous position in Afghanistan, the al-Qaida stronghold where Osama bin Laden and his cohorts plotted the Sept 11 terror attacks.

The war has also cost the United States support from other nations around the world, he said.

Cheney took issue with Biden's assertion that the Obama White House had been successful in winding down the Iraq war. "For them to try to take credit for what happened in Iraq is a little strange," Cheney said. "It ought to go with a healthy dose of 'thank you, George Bush.'"

Still, Biden said Iraq will have successful parliamentary elections next month and the U.S. is likely to bring home some 90,000 combat troops by summer's end.

More than 4,370 U.S. military personnel have died in Iraq since Bush ordered the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been wounded or killed.

Turning to the main issue on the minds of most voters, Biden said Obama inherited a shrinking economy with financial institutions that were on the edge of collapse, threatening to move the world into a depression.

Biden said the economy expanded at 5.8 percent during the last quarter and the U.S. has "stopped the hemorrhaging of jobs."

He said there was "tangible evidence" economy was moving in the right direction.

By the time of November's elections, he said, "in addition to bringing home 90,000 American troops, troops out of Iraq, the story of this administration is going to be more clearly told, and we're going to just fine."