Cheney rues Obama's lack of action in foreign affairs

| Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

President Obama's handling of foreign affairs jeopardizes America's standing with its allies in the Middle East, former Vice President Dick Cheney said on Wednesday.

“In the hearts and minds of our friends, I think they feel ... that the U.S. doesn't account for much anymore. I think that's Barack Obama's fault,” Cheney told the Tribune-Review during a visit to Pittsburgh.

Cheney, 71, who helped plan the war on terrorism after 9/11, pinpointed the Obama administration's response to the deaths last week of four diplomats at a U.S. Consulate in Libya as one of its biggest failures.

“This administration has been almost totally noneffective — lots of talk, no action,” Cheney said.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

U.S. envoy to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other American officials died when heavily armed militia invaded the consulate in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In Egypt, protesters stormed the U.S. Embassy.

Ongoing, sometimes violent protests across the Muslim world show the effects of the Democratic president's failed policy in a region important to the United States, Cheney said.

“The way we've operated is to put doubts in the minds of our friends,” he said. “ … Obama set a mindset for failure when he went to Cairo in the summer of '09 and apologized for U.S. conduct.”

During a June 4, 2009, speech in Cairo, Obama promised America would forge “a new beginning” with the Muslim world after a decade of war. He was widely criticized as apologizing for past U.S. policy.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday found Obama's foreign-policy approval rating with voters fell 5 percentage points after anti-U.S. riots erupted in North African, Middle Eastern and other Muslim countries last week.

The poll, conducted Sept. 12-16, found 49 percent of voters agreed with Obama's foreign policy, down from 54 percent a month earlier. The survey did not directly ask for views on Republican candidate Mitt Romney's foreign policy adeptness.

In June, the Pew Research Center found that global approval of Obama's policies declined significantly since he took office, and attitudes toward the United States slipped as a consequence, particularly in nations such as Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan.

“In the region, there's a real sense that America is being led by events,” said Ilan Berman, vice president of the Washington-based American Foreign Policy Council, who just returned from the Middle East. “Everyone is watching the weakness of our policy and drawing their own conclusions.”

General confidence in Obama's foreign policy leadership slipped by 6 percentage points or more in most countries since 2009, the Pew Global Attitudes Project found. Support for Obama waned significantly in China, where approval of his policies fell 30 points.

China, North Korea and Iran present potential problems, Cheney said.

“China is an important part of the world these days,” he said, noting that although China is a U.S. competitor, the two countries' economies are linked. “If ours goes into the tank, that's a shock for China's business and products.”

Nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran are worrisome, he said.

Cheney predicted that Romney's campaign will survive the political stir that surrounded his comments at a May fundraising event about being unable to woo many Obama supporters who don't pay income taxes.

“His numbers are accurate, in terms of 46, 47 percent of the population that doesn't pay income tax. It doesn't mean they don't pay taxes,” Cheney said. “It's important to remember we've already got a tax system that is heavily weighted … in favor of having a heavier burden placed on those at the upper end of the income scale.”

Romney suggested at the Florida fundraiser that almost half of Americans who pay no income taxes would not vote for him. His comments recently were released to news media.

Cheney acknowledged that Romney could have better expressed his thoughts but he said people should consider other issues as the presidential campaign winds toward the Nov. 6 election.

The tax code needs to be simplified, and Congress needs to close loopholes as part of an overall economic plan, Cheney said. Those and other measures would help stimulate the economy and create jobs.

A “huge fan” of Romney's running mate, debt-reduction hawk Paul Ryan, Cheney said Romney's choice of the Wisconsin congressman signals the Republican nominee's intent to address the country's more than $16 trillion debt.

Obama's plan to enlarge government and raise taxes and spending hasn't worked, Cheney said.

“The problem I have is (with) the Obama approach of ‘grab more of everyone's taxes and spend more of the money,' versus controlling spending, closing some of the loopholes and cutting taxes,” Cheney said. “That will increase profits and revenue and create new jobs.”

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or

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