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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Dick Cheney rips Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama

Former Vice President Dick Cheney speaks at the Sunshine Summit opening dinner on Thursday in Orlando.

Tom Benitez/Orlando Sentinel via AP

Former Vice President Dick Cheney speaks at the Sunshine Summit opening dinner on Thursday in Orlando.



LAKE BUENA VISTA --- For Republicans trying to cast themselves as the party of the future, their choice to headline their annual fundraising gala Thursdau night seemed a lot more like a nod to the past.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, 74, gave more than 1000 Republicans gathered at Disney World a grim assessment of the threats facing America and a blistering attack on the record of Barack Obama.

"My impression is that Obama's eager to get oout of town. Im eager to have him get out of town," Cheney said. "It's extraordinarily important that the Republican Party reclaim the reputation that we've had for most of my life - that we are the go-to guys on national security and defense."

Cheney, a divisive figure even with members of his party, is one of the main reasons why the GOP lost the trust of many voters on foreign policy and national defense. A leading force behind President George W. Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he left office in 2009 with only 13 percent of the American people having a favorable opinion of him.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam introced him as "easily most consequential leader in the modern Republican Party and certainly the most consequential vice president in the history of our country."

But even among the avid Republicans gathered in Orlando for Thursday's Statesman's Dinner and a two-day presidential candidate summit starting Thursday, audience members found Cheney a less-than-deal standard-bearer to put forth.

"I don't consider him the face of the Republican party. We'll leave it at that,' said state Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. "We're moving into a new era...It's more impportant for us to see the fresh faces of the Republican party."

Jeb Bush, who is working to differentiate himself from his brother and father, did not attend the speech, but Marco Rubio watched the former vice president and spoke afterwards.

Cheney's address to the Florida GOP came as the just-released biography of the 41st president, "Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush," revealed that the father of Jeb and George W. thought Cheney had changed since he served as his defense secetary.

“Just iron-ass. His seeming knuckling under to the real hard-charging guys who want to fight about everything, use force to get our way in the Middle East," the senior Bush told biographer John Meacham.

Cheney made no mention of that mini controversy, though Jeb Bush has yet again found himself having to talk about his brother's administration.

"He served my brother well as vice president," he said of Cheney last week.

Cheney accused Obama of having turned his back on more than 70 years of bi-partisan consensus from presidents about maintaining freedom across the globe, maintaining a a strong defense and militarty and "to be prepared to use it from time to time when necessary."

The global instability everywhere from Syria to Iraq to Ukraine, he said, is the result of the Obama administration "presenting a case of weakness...It's going to be the work of years to reverse the damage Barack Obama has done to our military capabilities."

Asked about the controvesies surrounding Hillary Clinton's emails, he said she he thinks she is "in big trouble." 

"Ive got to believe that she knew she had to protect and safeguard classified information that she was guardian to as secretatry of state," he said.

And on Benghazi, he said she "misled the American people. I think it does raise, serious, serious doubts about her capacity to be president."

Florida Democratic party spokesman Max Steele scoffed:“The only thing more embarrassing for Florida Republicans than the state of the GOP presidential primary is bringing Dick Cheney to keynote their dinner.It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. The Florida GOP is clearly still stuck supporting the failed Bush-Cheney economic and foreign policies that cost them the White House in the last two presidential elections, and Democrats are prepared to teach them that lesson as many times as it take.

Asked about the GOP's struggles winning minority voters, Cheney noted he and George W, Bush received 44 percent of the Hispanic vote and that there is no reason the party can't do that well or better again.

"It's abslutely essential we reach out and  try to build as broad a base as we can," Cheney said, without mentioning any specific policies such as immigration reform.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz released a statement on Cheney's Florida speech.

“If this is who the GOP candidates are taking their policy cues from, it tells you all you need to know about where they would take this country: backward." she said. "This GOP field is endorsing the same reckless foreign policy ideas and the same failed economic and fiscal policies as the Bush-Cheney administration, and if they get control of the White House again, it would lead to the same disastrous results. There’s a pattern here: a Republican president makes a mess, and a Democratic president has to clean it up and get Americans back on solid footing. Let’s avoid the mess this time, and elect a Democrat in 2016 to keep America moving forward.”

[Last modified: Friday, November 13, 2015 9:30am]


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