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Biden Wanted Cheney Out Too

CBS | October 3 2006

Bob Woodward's new book, "State of Denial," is not the only source of criticism of the Bush Administration – particularly Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld – for its handling of the war in Iraq.

On CBS News's Face the Nation Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said he thinks Rumsfeld should lose his job because of what he sees as mismanagement of the war.

Biden also said that, in an Oval Office meeting, he told President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that he wanted Cheney to step down for the same reasons.

"The present said to me, quote, 'Why do you keep picking on Rummy?' I looked at the president, and I said, 'Mr. President, with all due respect' – and I looked at the vice president – 'Mr. Vice President, I would call for your resignation as well, were you not a constitutional officer,'" Biden told host Bob Scheiffer.

"And the president said, 'Why would you say that?' And I said, 'Mr. President, not one piece of advice either Don Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney has given you has turned out to be correct with regard to Iraq.' And the president just seems completely wedded to the notion," Biden said.

Biden said that the president has to change the course in Iraq. Despite the presence of more than 600,000 troops in the war-torn nation, violence is increasing.

But when Schieffer asked if Biden thinks the vice president should resign, Biden said no.

"I was making the point that these guys just don't know what they're doing," he said. "And no one takes them seriously anymore except the president, apparently."

Woodward's book claims that former White House chief of staff Andrew Card and First Lady Laura Bush wanted the Defense chief to resign.

Appearing on the show after Biden, White House counselor Dan Bartlett said the president still has confidence in Rumsfeld.

"He's the right man to do this job. It's a very difficult job. There are a lot of armchair quarterbacks, but he's the right man," he said.

Also in Woodward's book is the revelation that two months before the Sept. 11 attacks, then-CIA director George Tenet asked for an emergency meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was then serving as National Security Adviser. The CIA feared an attack was coming by al Qaeda.

According to Woodward, this meeting was not mentioned in testimony before the 9/11 Commission.

"We were very surprised to see the account in this book, because it really didn't match Secretary Rice's recollection of the meeting at all," Bartlett said. "She said there were ongoing conversations about general threat levels, as we've testified to the 9/11 Commission about. We were taking actions to do everything we could to protect the country."

Bartlett said he was "pretty sure" that the 9/11 Commission knew about the all the conversations Rice had.

"She does remember meeting, this meeting and other meetings that they had where they were talking generalized about the threats and about what we're doing," he said. "But the suggestion in this is that they asked for a very specific plan to go after bin Laden. We knew an attack to America was going to happen. That is just not how she recalls it whatsoever. And none of the evidence as shown in the 9/11 Commission book says otherwise."

Biden said that, if Woodward's account is correct, "then Dr. Rice, Secretary of State Rice, did not meet her obligation to the 9/11 Commission, and George Tenet did not meet his obligation."

Woodward writes in 'State of Denial' that throughout the war in Iraq, the White House has received reports which said very different things than the President told the public.

For example, On March 16, 2003, Vice President Cheney told host of NBC's "Meet the Press" Tim Russert, "To suggest we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, I don't think is accurate. I think that's overstatement."

But a month earlier, CentCom estimated that it would take 450,000 U.S. troops to occupy Iraq based on the experience in Bosnia, according to the Washington Post.

"The president's always said, I depend on my military commanders. If he tells me we need more people, we send them. Well, that seems to be what they were telling him. And yet the administration was saying we don't need all those people," Scheiffer said.

"At every step of the way, the president has given the commanders what they wanted," Bartlett said. "Quite frankly, the politically expedient thing to do these days, in the last two years, has been to draw down the troops. That's what, apparently, so many critics here in Washington have claimed we should do."

Bartlett said that the president has a better understanding of the situation on the ground in Iraq than almost anyone. He is listening to military advisers and strengthening the forces there.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell also released a book this week in which he writes that he tried to warn him about what was ahead in Iraq but the president didn't understand what he was saying.

"Everyday, the president gets the full story about what's happening in Iraq," Bartlett said.


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