WH Press Secretary Gibbs mocks Cheney

"I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy so they trotted out the next most popular member of the Republican cabal."

Published March 16, 2009 9:30PM (EDT)

There's no love lost between the Obama administration and its predecessor -- or, at the very least, there's no love lost between White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and former Vice President Dick Cheney.

At his press briefing on Monday, Gibbs took questions about a CNN interview with Cheney that was broadcast a day earlier; during that interview, Cheney -- as he has before -- criticized President Obama pretty forcefully on issues ranging from terrorism to the economy. The press secretary's responses were similarly forceful.

"I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy, so they trotted out the next most popular member of the Republican cabal," Gibbs joked after the first question on the former vice president. "I think the president saw over the past seven plus years the delay in bringing the very people to justice that committed terrorist acts on this soil and on foreign soil. That delay in seeking swift and certain justice was what he decided to change through his executive order in changing the legal architecture by which these terrorists would finally be brought to justice."

Gibbs wasn't done there.

When a reporter asked the next question, "On the economy, are you trying to take advantage of this crisis?" the press secretary responded, "I think not taking economic advice from Dick Cheney would be maybe the best possible outcome of yesterday's interview."

Then CBS News' Chip Reid, showing perhaps a little deficit in his sense of humor, chimed in, asking, "That was a really hard-hitting, kind of sarcastic, response you had. This is a former vice president of the United States. Is that the attitude? Is that the sanctioned tone for the former vice president of the United States from this White House?"

What followed was another smack-down of Cheney, if anything a harsher one because of the degree of seriousness in Gibbs' response.

"Sometimes I ask forgiveness, rather than for permission, Chip," Gibbs said, "but no, I hope my sarcasm didn't mask the seriousness of the answer... that for seven-plus years the very perpetrators that the vice president says he's concerned about weren't brought to justice."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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