On Sunday’s CBS Evening News, political analyst John Dickerson brushed aside criticism from former Vice President Dick Cheney that the Obama administration was “dithering” on Afghanistan: “...it puts Cheney out there as a kind of boogie man the administration can point to. He’s not terribly popular outside of conservative circles...in some ways, Dick Cheney is a gift for the White House.”
Dickerson, who is a contributing writer for the left-leaning blog Slate.com, has also filled in for Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer twice in the last six months, on the October 18 and July 5 broadcasts. He was responding to a question from Sunday Evening News anchor Russ Mitchell, who cited Cheney and wondered: “Are you hearing other sentiments out there along those lines?” Dickerson claimed: “Well, there’s been some elite opinion about the pause in the President’s thinking.”
An October 9 CBS News poll showed that there was more than simply “elite opinion” on the subject: “President Obama has a slide in his approval ratings on his handling of the situation in Afghanistan. In April, 58 percent approved of his handling of the conflict; by August, that number had fallen to 48 percent. In the most recent survey it has hit its lowest level yet, 42 percent.” An October 18 ABC News/ Washington Post poll placed public approval of the President’s handling of Afghanistan at 45 percent, with 47 percent disapproving of his handling.
Dickerson went on to explain why Cheney’s criticism would be a “gift” to the Obama White House: “And also, it allows the administration to talk about the situation they inherited, and the neglect of the Bush-Cheney years. And that neglect is something not just Democrats talk about, but the generals who are fighting this war and trying to win it, talk about that same neglect. So in some ways, Dick Cheney is a gift for the White House.”
Here is a full transcript of the segment:
RUSS MITCHELL: For some perspective on how today’s [Baghdad] bombings could affect Obama administration policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are joined in Washington by CBS News analyst John Dickerson. John, good evening to you.
JOHN DICKERSON: Good evening, Russ.
MITCHELL: Can this be seen as a big setback for the Obama administration in Iraq?
DICKERSON: I don’t think so, if it’s – of it’s just a kind of one-off. The way administration officials talk about it is in that way. What would worry them is if this were the beginning of a long string of attacks. But they hope that it’s just one big, ugly event and that things will settle back down again afterwards.
MITCHELL: Of course, the President still has to decide what to do in Afghanistan, send more troops, bring some home, stay the course. Will what happened in Iraq this weekend, in your mind, affect the Obama administration’s decision on Afghanistan?
DICKERSON: There are so many other things to think about on Afghanistan, the nature of the government there, the situation in the various parts of Afghanistan, that this is much further down the list and that’s what administration officials say. So this probably won’t have much of an effect on Afghanistan. However, if the President does decide to add more troops, it does make the environment in which he would have to make that case to the American people a little more difficult. These kinds of bombings remind people of just the carnage that’s associated with more troops overseas.
MITCHELL: Former Vice President Dick Cheney is accusing the Obama administration of dragging its feet on Afghanistan. Are you hearing other sentiments out there along those lines?
DICKERSON: Well, there’s been some elite opinion about the pause in the President’s thinking. The benefits for the White House of having Dick Cheney come out and use the word ‘dithering’ is, one, Senator John McCain came out and said, well, he wouldn’t use that word. And so it puts Cheney out there as a kind of boogie man the administration can point to. He’s not terribly popular outside of conservative circles. And also, it allows the administration to talk about the situation they inherited, and the neglect of the Bush-Cheney years. And that neglect is something not just Democrats talk about, but the generals who are fighting this war and trying to win it, talk about that same neglect. So in some ways, Dick Cheney is a gift for the White House.
MITCHELL: CBS News analyst John Dickerson, as always, thank you very much.
DICKERSON: Thanks, Russ.