Dick Cheney wants to influence the foreign policy debate in the Republican presidential race. What he doesn’t want to do is discuss Donald Trump.
“We are religiously staying away from evaluating candidates at this point,” the former vice president said in a Monday afternoon interview with The Daily Caller.
Cheney and his daughter Liz are promoting “Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America.” The book is set for release Tuesday.
“There is a tremendous amount of work that’s got to be done by the next president,” Liz Cheney, a former deputy assistant secretary of state, said in the interview. “We lay out what that work is.”
In the 336-page book, the Cheneys write: “Just as one president has left a path of destruction in his wake, one president can rescue us. The right person in the Oval Office can restore America’s strength and our alliances, renew our power and leadership, defeat our enemies and keep us safe.”
According to one poll released Monday, Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are the leading Republican candidates in Iowa. None of them have ever served in public office or dealt with national security and foreign policy in an official government capacity.
Asked if he is comfortable with Republicans nominating someone without any government experience, Cheney said: “I think of people like Abraham Lincoln who, obviously if not our greatest president, was one of the two or three top presidents in the history of the republic. I think he’d spent one term in the House of Representatives.”
“In terms of evaluating individual candidates,” the former vice president said, “I think we’ve laid out the arguments and people will have to judge themselves whether or not they think a particular candidate does or doesn’t have particular traits.”
What Cheney is more willing to speak about is Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and the Democratic primary contest.
“I don’t know him personally,” he said of Sanders, who polls indicate is beating Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. “I’ve watched his campaign. I’ve been interested in how well he seems to have done out there.”
“I’m glad to see him in the race,” Cheney added. “I think they need more candidates on their side. Frankly, I hope Joe Biden will get in the race. I know Joe. I like him. I would not support him for office. But I’m happy to advise the Democrats that they should.”
The Cheneys, in their book, don’t back down from their belief that invading Iraq in 2003 was the right thing to do. Liz Cheney argued during the phone interview that the Democratic presidential candidates — and not just the Republicans — should be asked about their past positions on the issue.
“Particularly Secretary Clinton — given what we’re seeing now in terms of the total unraveling of structure in the Middle East, the rise of ISIS, the resurgence of Iran — whether she still believes it was right to abandon Iraq,” she said.
“All the debates about Iraq you see seem to kind of gloss over sometimes what the situation was in the Iraq on the morning of January 20, 2009 when President Obama took the oath of office and became commander in chief,” Liz Cheney said. “And what’s inarguable is that point: Iraq was in good shape. And basically we had won.”
Asked what he makes of the fact that a number of Republicans running for president now say they think, in hindsight, the war in Iraq was a mistake, the former vice president declined to weigh in. “We’re not in the business of judging candidates,” he repeated.
The former vice president said he and his daughter got the idea to write the book about a year ago.
“We were concerned that given the overall events and trends in the world, the growing threat — Putin and Europe, the Chinese and the South China Sea, the rise of ISIS, coupled with the rapid reduction of U.S. capabilities by Barack Obama, cuts in defense and the withdrawal from key areas of the world and so forth— that it was very important to go back and build the case for why a strong America is absolutely important and essential,” he said.
He said they spend a “considerable amount of time analyzing the Obama administration and the enormous problems they’ve created.”
“He doesn’t share that same view of U.S. exceptionalism that’s been a key part of both parties platforms over the years,” Dick Cheney said. “We talk a lot about Harry Truman, FDR, Jack Kennedy, and make the point that they would not recognize the national security policy pursed by this president,” he said.
Addressing the foreign policy issues around the globe, Liz Cheney said they have attempted to put them in historical contest. “So it’s not just a set of partisan recommendations or partisan attacks,” she said. “But basically puts in context the role America’s played in the world.”
In the book, they argue the nuclear deal with Iran will likely lead to the first nuclear bomb dropped in the world since Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
The former vice president predicted Monday that Iran’s neighbors will attempt to acquire their own nuclear weapons to ensure “their safety and security and survival.”
“When you take and then drop that proposition down into a very unstable part of the world, you run into significant difficulty,” he said.
Asked whether he thinks ISIS or al-Qaida is a bigger threat to the United States, Dick Cheney replied: “I’m not sure it matters whether it’s al-Qaida or ISIS. Both of them represent significant threats to the homeland.”
“To some extent, I suppose there’s some overlap,” he said. “There’s some evidence that some of the al-Qaida types have migrated over and become part of ISIS.”
“ISIS, if anything, is even bloodier minded than al-Qaida was,” he said. “I think both of them are committed to a course of action and belief and philosophies that are dedicated to the proposition of the destruction of Israel, the destruction of the United States. It’s not all that different from what the Iranians have continued to espouse — death to Israel and death to America.”