WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Robert Gibbs lashed out at former Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday, dismissing the Republican's criticism of delays in President Barack Obama's decisionmaking on Afghanistan strategy.
In a speech Wednesday night, Cheney offered the latest in a series of harsh assessments of the president's conduct of foreign policy, accusing Obama of "dithering" in his weekslong review about whether to add 40,000 new U.S. troops to the fight in Afghanistan. Cheney said Obama "seems afraid" to make a decision.
Those comments drew a sharp rebuke Thursday from Gibbs, who asserted that the Bush administration — and Cheney himself — had sat for eight months on a request for more troops from their own military leaders.
"What Vice President Cheney calls 'dithering,' President Obama calls his solemn responsibility to the men and women in uniform and to the American public," Gibbs told reporters. "I think we've all seen what happens when somebody doesn't take that responsibility seriously."
The back-and-forth continues a feud between Cheney and Obama officials that has raged almost since the day Obama took office.
In Wednesday's speech to the Center for Security Policy, Cheney called the shift to a new missile defense system "a strategic blunder and a breach of good faith" with the nations of Eastern Europe and said Obama had "moved blindly forward to engage Iran's authoritarian regime." But he reserved most of his criticism for Afghanistan matters.
"Signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries. Waffling, while our troops on the ground face an emboldened enemy, endangers them and hurts our cause," Cheney said.
A senior White House official rejected the criticisms, saying the new missile system replaced a "flawed one with a better and stronger and smarter one." He said Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons accelerated dramatically during President George W. Bush's terms, and he blamed the Bush team for ignoring Afghanistan.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to respond publicly, also blamed the present situation in Afghanistan on the Bush administration, which he said failed to adequately fund it for nearly seven years.