By Reid Wilson - 06/15/09 12:27 PM EDT
Vice President Cheney on Monday hit back at CIA Director Leon Panetta over his suggestion that Cheney wants another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Panetta, a veteran politician who served as Bill Clinton's chief of staff, had criticized Cheney for "gallows politics" and said the former vice president hoped the country were subjected to another terrorist attack.
"I think he smells some blood in the water on the national-security issue," Panetta told The New Yorker's Jane Mayer.
"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."
In recent months, Cheney has become a leading Republican voice in warning that the Obama administration has pursued policies that make the country less safe.
The White House has been complicit in helping elevate the former vice president to virtually equal status in the debate over national security; in May, both Cheney and Obama gave speeches on security, with Cheney starting just minutes after Obama's speech had ended.
Cheney has said the president's decision to release memoranda outlining the enhanced interrogation techniques some have called torture has harmed national security interests.
"Releasing the interrogation memos was flatly contrary to the national security interest of the United States," Cheney said in a May speech to the American Enterprise Institute. "The harm done only begins with top-secret information now in the hands of the terrorists, who have just received a lengthy insert for their training manual."
He has also called on Obama to release further memos that would illustrate the number of attacks on the U.S. that have been prevented thanks to the same techniques.
Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee has sought to elevate Cheney to the top of the Republican Party. The DNC's effort is part of a long-term project to label the GOP as a party with few ideas and no new leaders.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who clashed with Cheney over those same interrogation technique methods, came to the vice president's defense over Panetta's assertion that Cheney would benefit from another terrorist attack.
"I disagreed with the Cheney policy on interrogation techniques, but never did it cross my mind that Dick Cheney would ever want an attack on the United States of America. And it's unfair, and I think that Mr. Panetta should retract, and retract immediately," McCain said during a Fox News interview on Monday.
This article was updated at 1:34 p.m.