At a closed-door meeting during a weekend retreat, a casual chat between former Vice President Dick Cheney and current Vice President Mike Pence quickly turned into something more closely resembling an interrogation, according to a report in The Washington Post. The retreat was sponsored and hosted by the American Enterprise Institute at Sea Island, Georgia. It was billed as the conservative think tank’s annual world forum, a low-key meet-and-greet for the think tank’s donors and supporters to rub shoulders with the big names of conservative policy.
But it rapidly turned into a tense back-and-forth between two vice presidents, according to a source who was present at the closed-door meeting between Cheney and Pence. The conversation reportedly grew more pointed over foreign policy differences between the current administration and that of former President George W. Bush. According to a transcript of the meeting, Cheney went so far as to compare President Donald Trump’s foreign policy to that of his predecessor, President Barack Obama, a massive shot across the bow in the current political climate and given Trump’s well-documented loathing of all things Obama.
Observers said that although the conversation started out as a chummy catch-up moment filled with lighthearted banter – the two men reportedly joked about how being vice president is the “worst job in Washington” – it quickly devolved into a tense excoriation of Pence’s boss and Trump’s leadership style. Cheney reportedly sounded the alarm over reports that Trump “supposedly doesn’t spend that much time with the intel people, or doesn’t agree with them, frequently.”
Turning to North Korea as people in the room audibly murmured in response to the tone the conversation had taken, the former VP and one of the chief architects of the Iraq War criticized Trump’s decision to cancel U.S. military exercises with longtime ally South Korea. He was also sharply critical of recent reports that Trump is pursuing a policy of strong-arming Germany, Japan, and South Korea into paying for U.S. military deployment to those nations.
“I don’t know, that sounded like a New York state real estate deal to me,” Cheney said.
Pence did his best to defend his boss, claiming that the Department of Defense has assured the administration that canceling the military exercises on the Korean peninsula won’t affect military readiness.
“We’re going to continue [to] train,” Pence said. “We’re going to continue to work closely with South Korea. We have a tremendous alliance there.”
Pence then found himself on the receiving end of a series of queries on Trump’s apparent hostility toward NATO, saying that the president’s posture signals to U.S. allies that “we’re looking eagerly to find ways where somebody else will pick up the tab.”
“Well, who wrote these softball questions?” Pence quipped as the grilling continued.
As the meeting neared its end, Pence tried to reassure Cheney and those gathered in the room that the current administration is just as committed to defending U.S. interests as the Bush administration was, before making another joke about the unexpected intensity of the questioning.
“Gee, look at the time,” Pence joked, as the meeting wrapped up.