Former Vice President Dick Cheney is re-emerging as a critic of White House foreign policy and, Republicans say, signaling interest in steering the party toward a 2016 presidential nominee who identifies with a pro-military posture.
Cheney, who gave a brief speech to House Republicans at a private meeting today on Capitol Hill, expressed “tremendous skepticism” toward President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, said Representative Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican. Cole said Republicans maintain that Obama has a disengaged approach that has allowed tensions in the Middle East to fester, allowing the emergence of Islamic State militants.
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“If there was a single takeaway, it was that we’ve got to stop this decline of the American military,” Cole said.
Cheney, who remains a divisive figure in U.S. politics more than a decade after he played a central role in advocating the 2003 invasion of Iraq, was invited to speak by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Cheney’s appearance also signals his desire to encourage Republicans to select a 2016 nominee who will espouse a pro- military stance, said Cole and Representative Peter Roskam, an Illinois Republican.
“I see this as much about the upcoming presidential debate which begins in earnest in 2015 as I do any particular message directed toward the president,” Cole said. Cheney “wants to play an important role and should play an important role in shaping what the foreign policy and security concerns of the Republican Party are going forward.”
Roskam agreed that Cheney wants to help shape the party’s approach to 2016 as polls show Americans have become leery of overseas entanglements. He said the former vice president “put the case very clearly today that the United States needs to lead.”
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who espouses a libertarian philosophy and has been critical of U.S. involvement in overseas conflicts including in Iraq and Israel, has been laying the groundwork for a potential campaign.
Cheney is scheduled to speak tomorrow, the day before the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks, at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington policy research group that supports free markets.
Cole said he thinks today’s speech to Republicans -- which was no more than five minutes long -- was a preview of Cheney’s speech at AEI, which is also timed to coincide with Obama’s address to the nation late tomorrow on the Islamic State terrorism threat.
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The former vice president spoke to Republicans today hours before congressional leaders are set to meet at the White House with Obama over his strategy for dealing with Islamic State. Congress is considering whether to vote to authorize a broader military campaign against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria.
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