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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 March 2019

Dick Cheney and Mike Pence go head-to-head over Trump administration

Scathing criticism from former Vice President took place at weekend retreat for
US conservatives

Former US Vice President Dick Cheney is reported to have have said that 'our friends and allies around the world ... are going to lack confidence in us'. AFP 
Former US Vice President Dick Cheney is reported to have have said that 'our friends and allies around the world ... are going to lack confidence in us'. AFP 

Dick Cheney was once a role model for current US Vice President Mike Pence. The 78-year-old’s foreign policy and the way he ran his office were just some of the things Mr Pence admired about him.

But these days Mr Cheney is tearing into President Donald Trump’s foreign policy while Mr Pence declares himself to be the defender of the administration.

Mr Cheney’s scathing criticism of the Trump White House took place at a weekend retreat for the conservative American Enterprise Institute in the state of Georgia. The Cheney-Pence back-and-forth took place in a closed session, but a transcript leaked to The Washington Post revealed divisions – namely regarding foreign policy differences between isolationists and interventionists

“We’re getting into a situation when our friends and allies around the world that we depend upon are going to lack confidence in us,” Mr Cheney reportedly told Mr Pence.

“I worry that the bottom line of that kind of approach is we have an administration that looks a lot more like Barack Obama than Ronald Reagan,” he said.

Mr Cheney – who played a major role in US foreign policy after 9/11 and pushed for the invasion of Iraq – mentioned the rift with Nato and criticised what he called Mr Trump’s rushed decision to withdraw from Syria in “the middle of a phone call”.

The call in question was a phone conversation between Mr Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on December 14, during which the US President made the decision to withdraw from Syria without first consulting his national security team.

The decision to withdraw was later revisited, the initial timetable scrapped and a small number of residual forces ordered to stay in Syria.

Mr Cheney also voiced concerns about a Bloomberg report suggesting that Mr Trump wants America’s allies to pay for any US military presence in their countries.

Mr Pence defended the administration and stuck by Mr Trump’s push to win more financial help from allies and decrease the US military footprint in Syria, while maintaining a strong posture abroad.

“It’s possible to demand that your allies do more to provide for the common defence of all of our nations and, at the same time, reaffirm our strong commitment – whether it be to the transatlantic alliance or to our allies across the Indo-Pacific,” he said.

“We’re going to continue to stand strong for a strong national defence with President Trump in the White House.”

But Mr Pence did not have to wage a strong defence, given Mr Cheney’s own low popularity in public opinion polls. Mr Trump and Mr Cheney are seen unfavourably by more than 42 per cent of Americans.

The President’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, jumped at the opportunity to lambast Mr Cheney’s own record. “Isn’t it fitting that Cheney is the one mad that Trump is ending his reckless and endless wars? I never knew peace would be so unpopular,” he tweeted.

Although Mr Pence referred to Mr Cheney as “as one of my favourite hawks” and told ABC, “I hold Dick Cheney in really high regard in his role as Vice President and as an American,” his tone was a far cry from his earlier references to him as a role model.

Updated: March 13, 2019 09:25 AM

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