By MIKE ALLEN | 3/15/09 12:25 PM EDT
Vice President Cheney charged Sunday morning on CNN that President Obama is using the recession “to try to justify” what is probably the largest expansion of federal authority “in the history of the Republic.”
“I worry a lot that they’re using the current set of economic difficulties to try to justify a massive expansion in the government, and much more authority for the government over the private sector,” Cheney said in his first television interview since leaving office. “I don’t think that’s good. I don’t think that’s going to solve the problem.”
Speaking to host John King on “State of the Union,” Cheney said he thinks the programs Obama has proposed “in health care, in energy and so forth constitute probably the biggest – or one of the biggest – expansions of federal authority over the private economy in the history of the Republic.”
"I worry very much that what is being done here is saying, 'We've got an economic crisis, therefore, we're justified in fundamentally remaking the health program in America,'" Cheney said. "I don't think that's right."
Cheney has been largely out of sight for the past two months, as he and his wife, Lynne, set up their new home in Northern Virginia. But as in a recent interview with POLITICO, Cheney is as blunt-spoken as ever, and more aggressive in defending the administration’s legacy than President Bush has been so far.
The former vice president pushed back against efforts by Democrats to blame Bush for the current economic valley, saying his administration is not responsible “for the creation of those circumstances.”
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“I think there’s no question but what the economic circumstances that he inherited are difficult ones,” Cheney said. "We said that before we left. I don’t think you can blame the Bush administration for the creation of those circumstances. It’s a global financial problem.
“We had, in fact, tried to deal with the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac some years before, with major reforms that were blocked by Democrats on the Hill – [House Financial Services Chairman] Barney Frank and [Senate Banking Chairman] Chris Dodd. So I think the notion that you can just sort of throw it off on the prior administration – that’s interesting rhetoric, but I don’t think anybody really cares a lot about that. What they care about is what’s going to work, and how we’re going to get out of these difficulties.”
In the exchange likely to get the most attention, Cheney told King he thinks Obama has made the U.S. less safe by modifying Bush administration policies on detention and interrogation of terrorist suspects.