Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday dismissed a suggestion from Colin Powell’s former chief of staff at the State Department, Lawrence Wilkerson, that Cheney fears prosecution for war crimes.
“That’s news to me,” Cheney said on Fox News Sunday. “I don’t pay a lot of attention to Mr. Wilkerson. I don’t know him. As far as I know, I’ve never met the gentleman. I know he speaks out from time to time. That strikes me as a cheap shot.”
Wilkerson was not only Powell’s chief of staff at the State Department, he also worked for Powell during the first Bush administration, when Powell was chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff and Cheney served as Defense secretary. It is possible, though unlikely, that Cheney's and Wilkerson’s paths never crossed in either Bush administration. More likely, Cheney was following the time-honored Washington tradition of pretending not to remember someone who publicly criticizes you.
In an interview with ABC News last week, Wilkerson said he’s known Cheney for decades but has seen him change and sees his new book as an effort to settle scores.
“I simply don’t recognize Mr. Cheney anymore,” Wilkerson told ABC, adding that Cheney has "developed an angst and almost a protective cover, and now he fears being tried as a war criminal.”
By referring to Wilkerson's comment as a "cheap shot," Cheney was also playing word games with Powell, who complained last week on CBS's Face the Nation that Cheney was taking "cheap shots" at Powell in his new memoir, In My Time.
On the economy, Cheney said he’s been unimpressed with President Obama’s record so far. “He has been not very effective… in the economic arena. We are facing terrible economic problems, a huge long-term debt problem that’s gotten measurably worse on his watch, a serious, serious unemployment problem.”
Obama’s upcoming jobs speech on Thursday “sounds like” more of the same policies the administration has already pursued, Cheney added. “I don’t think it will get the job done,” he said.
For his part, Cheney advocated deep tax cuts and repeal of federal regulations of the kind that President Reagan proposed in 1981. Cheney heavily influenced much of the Bush administration's tax policy. A Fox News Poll last week showed 46 percent of respondents said Bush policies had a “great deal” to do with America’s current economic hardships while 28 percent said the same about Obama’s policies.
On politics, Cheney said he endorsed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, in her primary challenge last year to Texas Gov. Rick Perry because he knew her better, not because she was necessarily a better candidate.
“We’d been friends for a long time,” Cheney said. “I’d known Kay since we worked in the Ford administration together. We she decided to run for governor, she asked me to support her and I did. It wasn’t any commentary on Governor Perry. I didn’t know him the way that I’d worked with Kay.”
Cheney also said it was possible that Hillary Rodham Clinton might have made a better president than Obama, in part because she would have been “easier for some of us who are critics of the president to work with.” Cheney described Secretary of State Clinton as “one of the more competent members” of the administration. He wouldn’t say if Democrats would be better off with Clinton as the nominee in 2012, but said that he "wouldn’t want to discourage a good primary contest on their side."
"I don’t want to be in a position where I’m endorsing Hillary Clinton," he added. "That might be the kiss of death for her. I don’t have any reason to believe Hillary Clinton is interested in running.”