President Obama, rejecting former Vice President Dick Cheney’s contention that Obama has put the nation at greater risk of terrorism, suggests in an interview airing tonight on “60 Minutes” that the previous administration’s stance was an “advertisement for anti-American sentiment.”
“How many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney?” Obama asks. “It hasn’t made us safer. What it has been is a great advertisement for anti-American sentiment.”
The “60 Minutes” interview is Obama’s longest since taking office, CBS says. The interview was edited down from a 90-minute session taped Friday evening.
The president also defends Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner against growing criticism of the government’s handling of the financial crisis. If Geithner were to try to resign, Obama said, the president would tell him: “Sorry, buddy, you’ve still got the job.”
Cheney, who has been outspoken in his criticism of the Obama administration, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” last Sunday that Obama has increased the nation’s risk of terrorist attacks by jettisoning key elements of the Bush administration’s aggressive approach.
Since taking office, Obama has announced plans to close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility; banned waterboarding; ordered the closure of secret interrogation sites; and ordered CIA interrogators to abide by rules in the Army Field Manual.
“Now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack, Cheney said of Obama.
President Bush has shied away from criticizing his successor, explaining in Calgary, Canada, on Tuesday during his first paid speech since leaving office that Obama “deserves my silence.”
Asked by CBS’ Steve Kroft about releasing prisoners who have returned to terrorist groups, Obama replies: “There is no doubt that we have not done a particularly effective job in sorting through who are truly dangerous individuals . . . to make sure [they] are not a threat to us.”
Yet, the president maintains, the Bush administration’s policy on detainees at Guantanamo -- including long incarcerations without trial -- was “unsustainable.”
In the interview, Obama also addresses the economy, the proposed 90% tax on bonuses for top officials working at bailed-out firms, healthcare, carmaker bailouts, Afghanistan and Pakistan, CBS says.
The president says that neither he nor Geithner has mentioned resignation from his Treasury post, according to CBS, and that criticism is natural, considering the circumstances of the economy.
“It’s going to take a little bit more time than we would like to make sure that we get this plan just right,” Obama says. “Of course, then we’d still be subject to criticism -- ‘What’s taken so long? You’ve been in office a whole 40 days and you haven’t solved the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression.’ ”
Obama was asked about grumbling from Wall Street because the administration criticized bonuses for executives at financial institutions collecting government bailouts.
“They need to spend a little time outside of New York. Because . . . if you go to North Dakota, or you go to Iowa, or you go to Arkansas, where folks would be thrilled to be making $75,000 a year -- without a bonus -- then I think they’d get a sense of why people are frustrated.”