Vice President Mike Pence endured a thorny line of questioning from his predecessor Dick Cheney about President Donald Trump’s foreign policy decisions during a closed-door weekend retreat for Republican donors, Politico and The Washington Post reported.
Cheney, vice president in the George W. Bush administration, tore into the Trump administration’s wavering commitment to NATO during an off-the-record Q & A session Saturday at the American Enterprise Institute’s annual World Forum in Sea Island, Georgia.
“We’re getting into a situation when our friends and allies around the world that we depend upon are going to lack confidence in us,” Cheney told Pence, according to a transcript of the exchange obtained by the Post.
Pence reportedly appeared caught off guard by Cheney’s pointed questions.
“Man, who wrote all these softball questions?” he joked at one point, Politico reported. He praised Trump for demanding U.S. allies “do more to provide for the common defense of all of our nations.”
A spokeswoman for AEI declined to confirm any details of the exchange. “The AEI event was off the record, as a result I have nothing to share,” she said.
The clashing opinions on foreign policy and presidential standards reflect a broader schism between hawkish Republicans like Cheney and Trump-era isolationist conservatives.
Cheney, a chief architect of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, claimed Trump’s foreign policy instincts more closely mirrored former President Barack Obama’s than those of a Republican. Cheney has maintained a relatively low profile since leaving office, though he was a vocal critic of Obama’s foreign policy and was harshly portrayed in the 2018 Oscar-nominated movie “Vice.”
The former vice president also hammered Trump’s habit of announcing major policy decisions on Twitter and undermining intelligence officials. He expressed concerns over the president’s sudden decision to withdraw American troops from Syria.
Pence reportedly defended Trump’s often-controversial behavior and policy decisions as the markings of a transformational leader. He assured the former vice president that the Trump administration shares his devotion to protecting the country.
“Some people think the president and I are kind of different,” Pence said as the crowd laughed, according to the Post. “You know, he’s New York City; I’m small-town Indiana. He’s larger than life, you know, always memorable. And I’m not.”
Cheney, whose daughter Liz Cheney is a Republican congressional leader from Wyoming, doesn’t often criticize Trump publicly, though he did speak out against Trump’s racist claim during an early 2016 campaign speech that Mexicans are “rapists.”
The vice president’s office and a spokeswoman for Cheney declined to comment to Politico.