CBS’s Smith: Cheney and Bush See Obama As ‘Treacherous’

Harry Smith, CBS During an interview with President Obama, Harry Smith asked about recent criticism by Dick Cheney and President Bush: "Leon Panetta intimated that the former Vice President was playing politics with national security issues. The former President has intoned his own displeasure with some of your policy changes. I think they feel like some of the things that you've done, in fact, are treacherous."

Smith failed to provide any direct quote of Panetta’s comments, made during an interview for The New Yorker, in which the CIA director declared: "I think he smells some blood in the water on the national-security issue...It’s almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it’s almost as if he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that’s dangerous politics."

Instead of asking Obama why a member of his administration would make such an outrageous statement about a former vice president, Smith simply mentioned that Panetta accused Cheney of "playing politics with national security issues."

In reference to President Bush’s comments, even Obama thought Smith’s description was unfair: "I think, if you read President Bush's remarks, I think that is – that's not a fair characterization of what President Bush said." Smith replied: "Maybe not so unfair [with] what Vice President Cheney said." Obama responded: "Well, I think, when it comes to Vice President Cheney, he and I have a deep disagreement about what's required to keep the American people safe...I would argue that our policies are making the American people safer. And that some of the policies that he's promoted in the past have not."

To his credit, Smith did challenge Obama on his response to the protests in Iran earlier in the interview: "People in this country say you haven't said enough, that you haven't been forceful enough in your support for those people in the street. To which you say?" Obama replied: "To which I say the last thing that I want to do is to have the United States be a foil for those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States."

Smith also questioned the President on North Korea: "North Koreans have basically said that their intention is to fire a missile toward Hawaii on or about the Fourth of July...beyond the sanctions and beyond the isolation that has already been tried, what has to happen to get North Korea to at least act like they're part of the community of nations?" Obama argued: "This administration and our military is fully prepared for any contingencies...the entire Security Council saying unequivocally that North Korea has violated international law, that – and is willing to impose tougher sanctions." Smith responded: "They're still defiant, though."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: We sit down exclusively with President Obama, who responds to criticism that he needs to do more to help the protestors. People in this country say that you haven't said enough, that you haven't been forceful enough in your support for those people in the street. To which you say?

7:00AM TEASE:

SMITH: So much to talk about this morning. North Korea saber-rattling, I don’t know if you would go so far as to say this, but there is a cargo ship that is headed, apparently, toward Burma. A U.S. Navy destroyer is tracking that ship. There is concern about what is on that, maybe even missiles inside. We will talk to the President of the United States about North Korea and Iran and much, much more in just a little bit.

7:04AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: On Friday, I sat down with President Obama, and we talked about the protests in Iran. The Iranian people were very much on the President's mind. On Saturday, he called upon the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people.

BARACK OBAMA: The world is watching. And how they approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard, will, I think, send a pretty clear signal to the international community about – about what Iran is and is not. This is not an issue of the United States or the west versus Iran. This is an issue of the Iranian people. The fact that they are on the streets under pretty severe duress at great risk to themselves, is a sign that there's something in that society that wants to open up.

SMITH: People in this country say you haven't said enough, that you haven't been forceful enough in your support for those people in the street. To which you say?

OBAMA: To which I say the last thing that I want to do is to have the United States be a foil for those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States. That's what they do. That's what we're already seeing. We shouldn't be playing into that. There should be no distractions from the fact that the Iranian people are seeking to let their voices be heard. What we can do is bear witness and say to the world that the incredible demonstrations that we've seen is a testimony to, I think, what Dr. King called ‘the arc of the moral universe.’ It's long, but it bends towards justice.

SMITH: North Koreans have basically said that their intention is to fire a missile toward Hawaii on or about the Fourth of July. Secretary Gates has said there's been a military adjustment and to – to watch out for something like that happening. But beyond the sanctions and beyond the isolation that has already been tried, what has to happen to get North Korea to at least act like they're part of the community of nations?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, let's be clear. This administration and our military is fully prepared for any contingencies, and-

SMITH: Is that a warning of a military response?

OBAMA: No. It's just we are prepared for any contingencies. I don't want to speculate on hypotheticals. But I want – I do want to give assurances to the American people that the T’s are crossed and the I’s are Dotted in terms of what might happen. More broadly, I think the international community here has spoken. When you've got Russia and China, as well as South Korea, Japan, the United States, the entire Security Council saying unequivocally that North Korea has violated international law, that – and is willing to impose tougher sanctions.

SMITH: They're still defiant, though.

OBAMA: Well, the – what that sends – sends a signal, though, is of a unity in the international community that we haven't seen in quite some time. And one of the things that we have been very clear about is that North Korea has a path towards rejoining the international community, and we hope they take that path. What we're not going to do is to reward belligerence and provocation in the way that's been done in the past.

SMITH: Leon Panetta intimated that the former Vice President was playing politics with national security issues. The former President has intoned his own displeasure with some of your policy changes. I think they feel like some of the things that you've done, in fact, are treacherous.

OBAMA: Well, you know what, before you go there, I think, if you read President Bush's remarks, I think that is – that's not a fair characterization of what President Bush said. There – now, now-

SMITH: Maybe not so unfair what Vice President Cheney said.

OBAMA: Well, I think, when it comes to Vice President Cheney, he and I have a deep disagreement about what's required to keep the American people safe. And I think that disagreement has been amply aired, and certainly he has a right to voice his opinions. I would argue that our policies are making the American people safer. And that some of the policies that he's promoted in the past have not.

SMITH: Very quickly, financial regulatory reform, one of the big moves of the week was to really empower the Fed in a way it hasn't been before. Chris Dodd said:

CHRIS DODD: Giving the Fed more responsibility at this point, and he had a rather amusing analogy, it's like a parent giving his son a bigger, faster car right after he crashed the family station wagon.

OBAMA: It was a good line, and I love Chris Dodd and he's going to be a critical part of this financial regulatory reform process. I think it misapprehended the problem, the regulatory breakdown. It wasn't the Fed where the regulations broke down here. And part of what we want to do is to have somebody who's accountable and clear when it comes to these large systemic firms that could potentially bring down the entire financial system. The Fed has the expertise and the credibility, I think, to do it. We don't want a situation where taxpayers have to come in and bail out firms because, if those firms go under, the whole system collapses. And unfortunately, that's been the situation up until now. That's what we intend to get fixed. We want to make sure that this kind of crisis doesn't happen again.

SMITH: And in our next hour, the President talks to me about fatherhood, and we'll have even more tomorrow.

SMITH (Preview of part two of interview): People in the mainstream media have been accused of being afraid to speak truth to power and I've got – I’ve got some truth to power for you right now.

OBAMA: Okay, go ahead.

SMITH: And that will be tomorrow.

LARA SPENCER: It looks fantastic.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC