Former Vice President Dick Cheney goes after Obama at energy trade show

2014-06-25T20:15:00Z 2014-06-26T15:19:11Z Former Vice President Dick Cheney goes after Obama at energy trade showBy Erik Olson eolson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Former Vice President Dick Cheney continued his harsh criticism of the Obama administration in Billings on Wednesday, saying the president is peddling a “false narrative” about increased turmoil in Iraq.

Cheney told about 500 people at the Energy Expo trade show at MetraPark that military drawdowns by Obama, a Democrat, are opening the door for terrorist growth around the world.

“Now we’re in a situation where the administration has chosen in effect not to recognize the extent of the problem,” Cheney, a Republican, said at the Energy Exposition.

Cheney was the keynote speaker Wednesday night, talking for about 20 minutes and seeming to use few notes. He left immediately after his talk and declined to speak with reporters.

Though denying he's seeking future elected office, Cheney spent most of his talk on politics, particularly in the Middle East. He said he worries that Iraq will continue to destabilize.

"We are in dangerous times looking forward. The set of circumstances we’re faced with now is potentially very, very dangerous for our country and our allies around the world,” Cheney said.

A pro-Islamic group called ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has reportedly been behind the effort to take over the Iraqi government and undo the uneasy, U.S.-backed stability there. Obama administration officials have said they're considering targeted missile strikes to push back, but they've made no commitments.

As vice president under President George W. Bush, Cheney was known as one of the architects of the Iraq War and one of its biggest supporters. He was also Secretary of Defense for George H.W. Bush, and he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Wyoming.

He's largely stayed out of politics since he left the White House in 2009.

This month, Cheney and his daughter, Liz Cheney, penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal blasting Obama for inaction in Iraq following increased violence from a pro-Islamic group. The two also formed a political action committee called The Alliance for a Strong America.

Commentators on both the right and left fired back that Cheney had little credibility left on Iraq because the invasion proved far messier than his rosy assessments as vice president. Critics have also contended that the estimated $2 trillion Iraq war far surpassed Bush administration cost estimates and contributed to the federal budget deficit during the Obama presidency.

Former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, also jumped in to the fight this week and called Cheney’s criticisms “unseemly,” in an interview with NBC news, a charge the former vice president laughed off.

“If there’s somebody who knows something about unseemly, it’s Bill Clinton,” Cheney said.

Outside the MetraPark gates, about a half dozen protesters had gathered, holding signs blasting Cheney’s support of waterboarding. They said they were with Peace and Justice Forums, a Billings-based activist group. 

But inside, Cheney was met with a much more positive reaction. Supporters came up to him during dinner, snapped photos and gave him a standing ovation when he rose to speak. Before his prime rib and lobster tail dinner, Cheney spoke briefly with former U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont.

Other speakers Wednesday night included Tim Wigley, president of the Western Energy Alliance, and Mark Mathis, director and producer of the independent film “spOILed.” U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., also gave a short talk on a remote video feed. 

Cheney, the former president of Halliburton Oil, praised the efforts of oil and gas industry officials at the Energy Exposition, which is in its 15th year.

“You’ve been a very vital and important part of our economy,” he said.

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