Outgoing White House press secretary Jay Carney got to take a parting shot at former Vice President Dick Cheney in a briefing that was dominated by the issue of Iraq.
An op-ed by the former vice president and his daughter Liz Cheney published in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday contained the line: “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”
“Which president was he talking about?” Carney said in response.
Carney was not clear on points about whether Obama would need congressional approval for military force to protect the Iraqi government from the advancing Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“Look, it’s obviously always good to hear from Vice President Cheney,” Carney said dryly. “You and I each know him reasonably well. It’s pretty clear that President Obama and our team here have a distinctly different views on Iraq from the team that led the United States to invade Iraq.”
Carney was also asked to respond to another line in the Cheney op-ed about how closely Obama is monitoring the crisis.
“Iraq is at risk of falling to a radical Islamic terror group and Mr. Obama is talking climate change,” the Cheneys wrote. “Terrorists take control of more territory and resources than ever before in history, and he goes golfing. He seems blithely unaware, or indifferent to the fact, that a resurgent al Qaeda presents a clear and present danger to the United States of America.”
Carney said “it’s pretty clear” Obama has paid attention to the events in Iraq.
“It’s also clear that the president is being very deliberate about decisions surrounding the questions about the use of American military force and his belief that we should always be very deliberative in that kind of decision making process,” Carney said. “We should very carefully weigh the consequences, both desired and undesired, that can come from the use of U.S. military force and we should have a clear focus as to what our national security objectives are and what we – the United States – can achieve through military force as opposed to what in this case, the sovereign nation of Iraq and its security forces can and must achieve.”
Carney also challenged the criticis that Obama withdrew troops too quickly and should have left someone behind.
“Unless the proposition is, as some have suggested, that the United States should have occupied Iraq in perpetuity,” Carney said. “That’s simply not the president’s view.”
Carney will be replaced by his deputy press secretary Josh Earnest. The atmosphere for Carney’s final press conference was mostly cordial and ended with a handshake and hug near the podium from White House chief of staff Denis McDonough.