I caught up with top Obama adviser David Axelrod at the White House Thursday and asked him about the president’s speech on national security earlier in the day.
I asked Axelrod why the president did not mention that there were no further attacks on American soil after Sept. 11, 2001.
“I don’t think the president was trying to partisanize and politicize these issues,” Axelrod said. “He made very clear that they’re complex issues, he didn’t question people’s intentions, and we’re more than happy to say it’s great that … there were no attacks. It’s also true that during those seven years and going forward, no one can guarantee that there won’t be.”
“I think it’s a little disingenuous for the vice president to say if we only followed his regimen on torture, we’d never be attacked. And that appears to be his argument. It’s a specious argument, and a cynical argument,” Axelrod said.
Picking up on a phrase I’d heard Axelrod use in a CNN interview, I asked him if he thought Mr. Cheney was using “scare tactics.”
“I don’t think it was meant to unify the country around a strategy to make us more secure,” Axelrod said. “The president is out there to try and defend the country, defend our values and move us forward. The vice president appears bent on defending his legacy. But the president has the responsibility, as commander-in-chief, to defend the country and that’s what he’s going to do.”
I also asked Axelrod what he thought of former President Bush keeping such a low profile. In contrast to Cheney, Bush has maintained almost complete radio silence and has said nothing about the Obama administration.
“I think he is showing the kind of class that former presidents do at the beginning of a new administration,” Axelrod said.
I spoke with Bush spokesman Rob Saliterman today and he said he doubted that the former president would have anything to say about Cheney’s speech.
— Jon Ward, White House reporter, The Washington Times