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Biden: Cheney "Absolutely Wrong" On "Dithering" Charge

In an interview with pool reporters accompanying him on a trip to Eastern Europe, Vice President Biden strongly disputes the view of his predecessor that the Obama administration is "dithering" as it considers a shift in military strategy on Afghanistan, calling Dick Cheney "absolutely wrong."

"I think what the administration is doing is exactly what we said it would do, and what I think it warrants doing. And that is making an informed judgment based upon circumstances that have changed ... to come up with a sustainable policy that has more than one dimension," he said.

At one point, a pool report notes, Biden seemed ready to dismiss Cheney's views altogether, starting to say, "Who cares what" he thinks. But he "stopped himself to find another way to put it," the report said. "I can see the headline now," he said. "I'm getting better, guys. I'm getting a little better, you know what I mean?" Biden also called an assessment left by the Bush administration "irrelevant."

Biden's trip in part is meant to reassure Eastern European allies about the U.S. decision to scrap a missile defense arrangement there, something Cheney also criticized. The current VP admitted the decision could have been communicated better, but said that on this trip allies "have no doubt" about the American commitment to their security.

The full pool report of Biden's comments is after the jump.

In an interview with your poolers, Vpotus pushed back against former VP Cheney's criticisms this week, saying it was "absolutely wrong" to say the Obama administration is dithering on Afghanistan and that the review left behind by the Bush-Cheney White House was "irrelevant."

At one point, he grew dismissive. Asked about Cheney's criticism, he said: "Who cares what - " and then stopped himself to find another way to put it. ("Yeah, yeah, I can see the headline now," he said. "I'm getting better, guys. I'm getting a little better, you know what I mean?")

But he went on to dismiss the Bush-Cheney review as inadequate. "That's why the president asked me to get in the plane in January and go to Afghanistan," Vpotus said. "I came back with a different review." And he said the Bush-Cheney review is now dated. "A whole lot has changed in the last year. ... Let's assume they left us a review that was absolutely correct. Is that review relevant and totally applicable to today in light of the changes that have taken place in the region, in Afghanistan itself? So I think that is sort of irrelevant. Not sort of - I think it's irrelevant."

He flatly rejected the dithering charge: "I think that is absolutely wrong. I think what the administration is doing is exactly what we said it would do. And what I think it warrants doing. And that is making an informed judgment based upon circumstances that have changed ... to come up with a sustainable policy that has more than one dimension."

And on the Cheney charge that the Obama administration committed a "strategic blunder" and abandoned its allies by scrapping the Bush missile defense system in favor of a reformulated more mobile version, he said the leaders he met on his tour of Eastern Europe were satisfied that the new system will be more effective: "They believe that the new architecture is better."

You'll see a transcript, but in the meantime, other quotes from the half-hour interview conducted at the American ambassador's residence in Prague:

On the rollout of the missile defense decision last month: "Could it have been done better? Yeah. Obviously it could have been done better."

And: "Look, there's always a better way to be able to communicate change than whatever the way you used. But that's the reason for the trip. I think I set out on behalf of the president to convey to three central European allies that we're committed. We've ended the trip, we've ended the meetings, and I'm absolutely convinced that the leaders of the opposition as well as the governments of all three countries have no doubt about the commitment."

On Eastern European reaction: "There is an understandable reason for the anxiety here," he said. "You've got a new administration." But he added, "missile architecture was more sort of a metaphor for 'are we committed?'"

On Russia's reaction to missile defense: "Quite frankly, there's no way ever to know whether what I'm about to say is true, but if I'm sitting in Moscow, I'm reassured. Because this missile defense system can get short range an intermediate range missiles that are accidentally or intentionally sent in basically any direction."

On the Bush-Cheney review on Afghanistan left behind for the new administration: "That's why the president asked me to get in the place in January and go to Afghanistan. I came back with a different review. I came back with an assessment as to what I thought was, what we were inheriting, okay? But unrelated to whether they left us a review or not - let's assume they left us a review. A whole lot has changed in the last year. A whole lot's changed. So the idea - even if they did - let's assume they left us a review that was absolutely correct, is that review relevant and totally applicable to today in light of the changes that have taken place in the region, in Afghanistan itself? So I think that is sort of irrelevant. Not sort of, I think it's irrelevant."

On his role advising the president in the Afghanistan debate: "I'd be surprised if he publicly dismissed anything I had to say, number one. Number two, look, I knew when I signed on as vice president that he is the president. The only thing, the only guarantee I got, and that he's kept, is that I get the opportunity on every important decision to be in on the deal, to give him the benefit or lack thereof of my opinion."

And: "The truth of the matter is that he has kept that deal. He has sought my opinion not generically but in detail. And if he reaches a different conclusion than I do, that's okay. He's the president. But, I am... Anyway, I guess that's the best way to answer the question."