White House Takes on Cheney Over Criticism of Terror Response

The White House fired back Wednesday at Republican critics, particularly Dick Cheney, who have accused the administration in the aftermath of an attempted jet attack of taking a light approach to fighting terrorism.

The former vice president had told Politico.com that Obama is "trying to pretend we are not at war" with terrorists and is endangering the country in the process. Cheney joined several other GOP officials in criticizing the administration's "low-key" response to the failed attempt to bomb a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day.

But White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer accused Republicans Wednesday of trying to exploit the plot for political gain.

"It is telling that Vice President Cheney and others seem to be more focused on criticizing the administration than condemning the attackers. Unfortunately too many are engaged in the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay, instead of working together to find solutions to make our country safer," he wrote on the White House blog.

Pfeiffer said it "seems strangely off-key" for Cheney to be attacking Obama, accusing the Bush administration of taking the eye off the ball with the Iraq war. Pfeiffer said it was Obama who placed attention on hotspots like Yemen and Somalia, where new terror plots appear to be emerging.

The communications director also said nobody realizes the "hard reality" that the country is at war more than Obama.

"This president is not interested in bellicose rhetoric, he is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from Al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country," Pfeiffer wrote. "There are numerous ... public statements that explicitly state we are at war. The difference is this: President Obama doesn't need to beat his chest to prove it, and -- unlike the last administration -- we are not at war with a tactic ('terrorism'), we at war with something that is tangible."

Though Obama waited the entire weekend to publicly comment on the attempted attack, and his secretary of homeland security initially claimed "the system worked," the president on Tuesday bluntly stated that a "systemic failure" allowed the suspect in the case to board a plane armed with explosives.

Obama has pledged a full review to determine what went wrong and how to fix it.