Former Vice President Dick Cheney sought Monday to clarify a remark he made recently suggesting it was a “mistake” for Sen. John McCain to pick Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate in 2008. Cheney also told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Monday that Palin was actually more qualified to run the country than President Barack Obama.
“It wasn’t aimed so much at Gov. Palin as it was against the basic process that McCain used,” Cheney said in an interview, which aired Monday night. “My point basically dealt with the process in terms of that basic requirement: Is this person prepared to step in to be president of the United States when they’re picked?
“And it was my judgment — I was asked if I thought the McCain process in ‘08 had been well done or was it a mistake and I said I thought it was a mistake,” Cheney said. “That’s not . . . meant so much as a criticism of Governor Palin as it is that I just thought it was not — the process didn’t meet the standards I would like to see our candidate pursue when they pick a — a running mate.”
Cheney said he actually likes the former Alaska governor: “I think she’s a very able and effective spokesman for the party, for conservative causes. She believes in a lot of the same things I believe in. And I think she’s been very effective at that.”
The former vice president went further than that, however, suggesting at one point that Palin may have been more qualified to assume the office of president if called on than Obama because of her two years of executive experience as a governor.
Asked if Obama was prepared for the job of president, Cheney replied, “Not by the standards that I would apply.”
Cheney recalled swearing Obama into the U.S. Senate after his election from Illinois and then watching him disappear for two years before he ran for president.
“That’s what vice presidents do — swear in new senators,” Cheney said. “And then he disappeared for two years. Never heard anything of him while he was a member of the United States Senate. And then all of a sudden he’s running for president.
“I mean, that was sort of the sum total of his, quote, ‘experience.’ And he obviously ran a good campaign, was able to defeat Hillary Clinton,” he continued. “That’s not an easy task, but I was — you know, if I were to apply the standards that I’ve talked about, you want in a running mate, Barack Obama didn’t meet that test.”
Cheney said he believes this year’s presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney is treating the vice presidential selection process with the kind of “seriousness” required to settle on someone capable of assuming the presidency at moment’s notice.
Asked which of the candidates that have been talked about as possible Romney choices would be the most qualified, Cheney refused to reveal his own pick. But he said he was “generally confident” about the “new generation of Republicans coming along” that Romney has reportedly been considering as a possible running mate.
“You mentioned a lot of names in terms of the prospects that he’s looking at now at this point,” he told Hannity. “And so, I feel very good about the next generation.”
Cheney also said in the interview that he plans, like his former boss George W. Bush, to sit out the Republican National Convention later this month.
“What would I do? Sit in the gallery and watch? You can see it on television,” he said.
He added that he believes it’s a “new era” for the party with “a new set of officeholders” that should be featured at the convention.
Turning to the campaign against Obama, Cheney said the president has basically “taken a pass” on confronting the long-term debt crisis facing the nation, which he described as “one of his most important responsibilities” since taking office.
He said Obama also “headed for the exits” whenever it came to dealing with developments in the Middle East, which he said has strained relations with Israel and other U.S. allies in the region.
He also criticized the president’s handling of the economy, saying that his recent remarks suggesting that nobody builds a business on their own indicates that he doesn’t appreciate how people create success stories in America.
“He thinks everything that happens that’s good in the country comes from the government,” Cheney said. “And he’s just dead wrong.”
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