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

Washington (CNN)Former Vice President Dick Cheney said President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are "playing the race card" when they suggest some criticism of their performance is motivated by racism.

"I think they're playing the race card, in my view," he told Playboy in a new interview published this month. "Certainly we haven't given up — nor should we give up — the right to criticize an administration and public officials."
Cheney said to suggest his criticism, or any criticism at all, of the two officials has anything to do with their race is "obviously not true."
"My view of it is the criticism is merited because of performance — or lack of performance, because of incompetence. It hasn't got anything to do with race," he added.
    The comments were just a fraction of the blunt rhetoric from Cheney on a range of issues during the interview, but he repeatedly came back to one theme: Obama's missteps in office.
    Cheney said Obama hadn't taken advantage of the boom in energy production here in the U.S. He also faulted Obama for his handling of the shooting of an unarmed black teen at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., saying he was "disappointed" in the administration's emphasis on racial issues in their response. For Cheney, it was a "clear-cut case" that the evidence proved had nothing to do with race.
    "I don't think it is about race. I think it is about an individual who conducted himself in a manner that was almost guaranteed to provoke an officer trying to do his duty," he said.
    And in particular, Cheney criticized Obama on foreign policy. He argued Obama's decision not to attack Syria after the leadership there used chemical weapons on its citizens led to the rise of ISIS.
    "Our friends no longer trust us, and our adversaries no longer fear us," he said. "We've created a huge vacuum in that part of the world, and ISIS has moved in big-time."
    And Cheney said the President had "absolutely" rolled back President George W. Bush's record, calling the Iraq withdrawal a "huge mistake" and criticizing Obama for treating the war on terrorism as a "law-enforcement problem."
    "The way Obama is functioning now, he's crippling the capacity of future presidents to deal with future crises," Cheney declared.
    More broadly, Cheney issued a stinging indictment of the president's worldview, which he characterized as abandoning the longstanding belief in American Exceptionalism. The former vice president said Obama had departed from the "consensus" that has governed past presidents all the way back to Harry Truman — that U.S. leadership globally "produces a far more peaceful, less hostile world and greater prosperity."
    "And it's going to take a lot to rebuild the damage that has been done over the past few years, because we've actively conveyed to the world the notion—this president has—that we no longer believe that," Cheney added.