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Cheney to 'Playboy': Obama, Holder 'playing the race card'

In a new interview with "Playboy" magazine, the former vice president lets it all hang out ... metaphorically speaking, that is.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is seen in Grand Rapid's Michigan on April 21, 2014.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is seen in Grand Rapid's Michigan on April 21, 2014.

In a newly-published, lengthy and wide-ranging interview with Playboy magazine, Republican former Vice President Dick Cheney does not hold back when it comes to criticism of the Obama administration.

"I look at Barack Obama and I see the worst president in my lifetime, without question ... it's a real tragedy"'

"I think they're playing the race card," Cheney says off the bat when asked whether race has anything to do with any of the criticism that has been aimed at President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder. Instead, Cheney says all of that criticism is deserved "because of incompetence."

"I look at Barack Obama," Cheney says, "and I see the worst president in my lifetime, without question ... it's a real tragedy."

From foreign policy to energy policy, and from America's military to the response to the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Cheney lobbed harsh rhetorical bombs at the current administration repeatedly across nine pages of the magazine.

"I don't know where the president gets his guidance," Cheney told Playboy. "I don't know who he talks to; I don't know who he listens to ... [but] I don't have any concept that he has a worldview that's sort of the traditional worldview that most American presidents have adhered to for 70 years."

Speaking of the current proliferation of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Cheney again singles out the Obama administration for blame. Without acknowledging any criticism of the flawed intelligence that got the United States into the second Iraq war, Cheney says American actions have "created a huge vacuum in that part of the world, and ISIS has moved in big-time."

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Cheney also stated that Obama's military strategy is having a "crippling" affect on the Pentagon's readiness. "I am absolutely convinced there will be a future president ... who will be faced with a major crisis and will not have the military capability he needs to deal with it," Cheney says. "I can go on for hours."

Speaking of the response to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Cheney says the U.S. needs to shift its energy policy to put more pressure on Moscow. He also criticizes the president for vetoing the Keystone XL pipeline project and "doing everything he can to shut down the coal industry" in the United States.

Turning to the death of Michael Brown and the protests that followed in Missouri and around the nation, Cheney calls the events a "tragedy," but says he believes Brown's shooter, former Officer Darren Wilson, "did what he had to do." He also states it would be a mistake to link race with the shooting, arguing that discrimination was not fully responsible for the event. "I think that would be wrong," he concludes.

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As he has in the past, Cheney also tenaciously defends the policies of President George W. Bush. On the controversy surrounding Guantánamo Bay, Cheney tells Playboy, "It's still there for a reason." The former vice president also refutes the idea that he and other senior Bush administration officials operated the so-called enhanced interrogation tactics without fully briefing President Bush in an effort to insulate him from any potential fallout.

But rather than simply saying that he and others never worked around President Bush on enhanced interrogation policies, Cheney repeatedly uses language like, "I can't think of a time when we ever operated that way." When pressed by Playboy, Cheney says he remembers having a conversation "in the Oval Office with deputy national security advisor Stephen Hadley and others ... where we talked about the techniques."

Cheney neglects to ever say if President Bush was among the "others" assembled for that conversation.

He also rejects criticism that the Bush administration manipulated the law to make its policies legal rather than follow existing law. "FDR ever do that?" Cheney says before chuckling, according to Playboy.

The former vice president told the magazine that he does not live with any regrets and is proud of all he's accomplished. "I feel damn lucky that I'm alive, that I'm here."

Playboy's interview with Dick Cheney appears in the magazine's April edition.