Biden vs. Cheney: Battle of the Vice Presidents

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This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 15, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Vice President Biden and former Vice President Cheney trade Sunday morning show jabs. Liz Cheney is here to go "On the Record" next. But first, Vice President Biden.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under the Bush administration, there were three trials in military courts. Two of those people are now walking the streets. They are free. There were 300 trials of so-called terrorists and those who engage in terror against the United States of America who are in federal prison and have not sent light of day, prosecuted under the last administration.

Dick Cheney's a fine fellow, but he is not entitled to rewrite history without it being challenged. I don't know where he has been. Where was he the last four years of the last administration?


VAN SUSTEREN: Former Vice President Dick Cheney throws a counterpunch.


DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think, in fact, the situation with respect to al Qaeda, to say that, you know, that was a big attack we had on 9/11, but it's not likely again, I just think that's dead wrong. I think the biggest strategic threat the United States faces today is the possibility of another 9/11 with a nuclear weapon or a biological agent of some kind. And I think al Qaeda is out there even as we meet, trying to figure out how to do that.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: And do you think that the Obama administration is taking the necessary steps to prevent that?

CHENEY: I think they need to do everything they can to prevent, and if the mindset is it's not likely, then it's difficult to mobilize the resources and get people to give it the kind of priority that it deserves.


VAN SUSTEREN: Vice President Biden fires back.


DAVID GREGORY, NBC'S "MEET THE PRESS' MODERATOR: Mr. Vice President, are you underestimating the threat posed to this country by al Qaeda?

BIDEN: No, but I always underestimate the way Dick Cheney approaches things. The reason it's unlikely is because we have been relentless, absolutely relentless in isolating al Qaeda...


BIDEN: I don't know what Dick doesn't understand. The worry is legitimate. The reason why I do not think it's likely is because of all the resources we have put on this, considerably more than the last administration did, to see to it that it will not happen.


VAN SUSTEREN: Joining us live is Liz Cheney, former deputy assistant secretary of state and daughter of Vice President Cheney. Liz, nice to see you. And it's sort of -- as I listened to the big news tonight that we might have gotten the number two in Taliban, at least it's being reported number two, and I watched the two dueling vice presidents, I think to myself, how much does the media try to create these duels, these fights between two men who obviously care about their country, and how much is, you know, legitimate news gathering?

LIZ CHENEY, DICK CHENEY'S DAUGHTER: Well, I think that, clearly, the whole dueling concept is something that the media helps to feed. I think, you know, the White House, when they heard that Vice President Cheney was going to be out, immediately rushed to put Vice President Biden out. But these are really important issues and issues where the stakes are very high for the nation.

I think that, you know, this news that we've just heard from Afghanistan is good news, if it's true. I think it's very good news, obviously. I think it's troubling that The New York Times broke the story. I'm always suspicious. The New York Times does not have a good record in terms of being responsible about keeping information secret that should be kept secret that comes into their possession. But it is good news. It tells you -- it reminds us once again, though, that we are at war with an enemy determined to kill us.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, as I understand it, the reason The New York Times finally did go public with this is because it's all over -- all over Pakistan they know about this now. You know, because geographically, we're sort of the last to know, so...

CHENEY: They've always got a reason why they...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, I...


VAN SUSTEREN: We'll hear about it probably tomorrow. But all right, now, in terms of the difference in opinions between the two vice presidents, it seems to me your father was -- he said that he's in agreement with what's going on in Afghanistan, this operation that we're seeing some of the fruits of tonight. Where he differs with this administration in the war on terror is where?

CHENEY: Well, I think the notion that we can deal with terrorism as a law enforcement matter, which is what you're seeing, I think, increasingly here at home, whether it's closing Guantanamo and saying that we're going to treat these terrorists now as criminal defendants, bringing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to the United States and providing him with a platform in a U.S. courtroom -- I think you have to go back before 9/11 to look at the lessons we learned when we tried to treat terrorism as a criminal matter before we were attacked and realize that it's an insufficient way to keep the nation safe.

Secondly, I would say the way that the administration is dealing with interrogation and the extent to which they released the details of our enhanced interrogation program, some tools, by the way, that I would like our professionals to have at their disposal tonight if they decided that they needed to with the Taliban leader that they've captured but which they no longer have. And the fact that the administration is now going after some of those CIA agents who conducted those interrogations and said they're going to investigate them -- I think all of that gives people grave concern.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, as I sort of sit back and watch this, you know, the horrible thing about it is that who's sort of right on strategy? Whether it's the Bush administration or the Obama administration, how to keep us safe, unfortunately will be determined by whether or not we get hit again, you know? And that's a terrible line -- that's a -- that's a terrible test, you know, that none of us wants to confront or experience.

CHENEY: Well, and I think that, you know, what we know -- and we saw every senior intelligence official in the U.S. government confirm this in front of the Senate a couple of weeks ago -- is that they're trying. They're trying very hard. You know, there are attempts repeatedly and consistently. And it's why the president has got to stay focused. And what we've seen, I think, with the Christmas Day bomber is what happens when the president's not totally focused, that these systems can erode. And if the president of the United States isn't himself, day in and day out, reminding people that this is his top priority, we're not as safe as we ought to be.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's interesting you raise that because one of the things I was going to raise with a guest in a segment, too, is this whole -- is how much is the president being served by his advisers? And I think one of the most stunning things that I discovered tonight as I went back in the timeline -- and as of December 28th, which is three days after the Christmas Day bomber, the president came out and made a statement and he said that -- he made references to this as an isolated extremist. So I mean, in three days' time, when he's supposedly being interrogated, his advisers are leading him to believe that this guy is working in isolation, working alone, and that's simply not true.

CHENEY: Well, and these same advisers -- that was counterterrorism adviser Brennan, apparently. You also had Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano, who gave a White House briefing in early January on this matter, and they both said they were surprised that al Qaeda in Yemen was operational. And Secretary Napolitano said she was surprised that al Qaeda would send individuals to attack us. I mean, those are two statements that you would, frankly, know if you were just reading the newspaper not to be surprised by those things.

I think there's a real question of competence here. The president may not be well served, but at the end of the day, he's the president. And he's been the president for over a year now, and he hasn't held anybody accountable for what happened on Christmas Day. It's his responsibility to do that.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, on another note, you're chairman of the board at the Institute for the Study of War. And the institute has a new Iraq war documentary "The Surge: The Untold Story." Let's watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The men and women of America's military are drawing lessons from their remarkable experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I think people will study this aspect of what happened in Iraq for years to come in terms of how did the United States military, along with the Iraqis, take a situation as dire as it was by the end of 2006, where Iraq was almost a failed state, and turn that around in about seven months.


VAN SUSTEREN: The surge in Iraq. That one worked.

CHENEY: It worked. And I want to encourage all your viewers...

VAN SUSTEREN: Or at least so far.

CHENEY: ... to go to You can watch this movie. It's a documentary that was based on 50 hours of interviews with the generals, General Keane, whom you saw there, General Odierno, General Petraeus, and the colonels who were involved in turning Iraq around and in providing the kind of security and confidence to the Iraqi people that they needed to begin to stand up themselves.

VAN SUSTEREN: And -- and early...

CHENEY: Tremendous success story.

VAN SUSTEREN: And early on pushing it, Senator John McCain. He was an early person pushing that surge, and he felt -- he had a lot of resistance.

CHENEY: Well, I think that the important thing about the surge, and Senator McCain certainly was a supporter, but it was the notion that we had to convince the people that we were going to protect them and that we were going to be there and they could count on us. And you saw over the weekend General Jones, frankly, try to diminish the success of the surge, and you saw Vice President Biden say that Iraq wasn't worth it. And I would encourage both of them...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's a different issue, though.

CHENEY: ... and all your viewers -- well, it's not a different issue. You look at what those Americans troops did and you look at the extent to which the sacrifices they made so that we were able to take out Saddam Hussein so that we now have in the heart of the Middle East what is going to be a democracy, what is already an ally of America, what's no longer a state sponsor of terror -- and for the vice president of the United States, after all that sacrifice, to say it wasn't worth it may be what believes, but I think it's a shame for him to be (INAUDIBLE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, there's no doubt our military -- our military has done an enormous service for -- they've given up a lot.

CHENEY: They have.

VAN SUSTEREN: Liz, thank you.

CHENEY: Thanks.

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