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In Familiar GOP Attack, Dick Cheney Says Obama Wants to Spend Defense Budget on Food Stamps

Cheney Speaks At Gerald R. Ford Foundation's Annual Journalism AwardsMany observers have had an incredulous reaction to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s criticisms of President Barack Obama as Iraq collapses into sectarian violence, since many consider Cheney the architect of Iraq’s instability. However, Cheney upped the attack on Obama on Thursday night by making a reference to food stamps.

“When I was secretary [of defense], we had basically a two-war strategy,” Cheney said to a crowd in Billings, Montana, during an energy industry trade show. “We had to maintain sufficient forces to be able to fight two wars at once. He switched that. Now we’re going to have a one-war strategy. And that’s all being done as a rationale to justify further deep cuts in the defense budget so he can allocate that money to food stamps or whatever else he wants to spend it on.”

The reference to food stamps is one of the frequently used “dog whistles” of the American conservative movement, a coded term that plays on the fears of the right wing that the first African-American president will take their hard-earned taxpayer dollars and redistribute it to African-Americans through food stamps and welfare. During the 2012 presidential campaign, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich famously referred to Obama as “the best food-stamp president in American history.”

Even though a majority of food stamp recipients are white — 34 percent of recipients are white, 22 percent are African-American and 16 percent Hispanic — Republicans seem to go out of their way to link Obama to the concept of public dependency.

During an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, former President Bill Clinton called Cheney’s attacks on Obama “unseemly.”

“Mr. Cheney has been incredibly adroit for the last six years or so attacking the administration for not doing an adequate job of cleaning up the mess that he made,” Clinton told the show’s host David Gregory. “And I think it’s unseemly. And I give President [George W.] Bush, by the way, a lot of credit for trying to stay out of this debate and letting other people work through it.”

Clinton said if the U.S. had not gone to war with Iraq during the Bush administration, the violence that has plagued Iraq in recent weeks would not be happening.

“Well, it might be happening in Syria, but what happened in Syria wouldn’t have happened in Iraq. Iraq would not have been, in effect, drastically altered, as it has been,” the former president said.


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