What was supposed to be a relaxed conversation between Vice President Pence and former Vice President Dick Cheney quickly turned into a argument over President Donald Trump’s foreign policy at a private gathering last weekend, according to a report from LMTOnline.
The gathering was a closed-door retreat hosted by the American Enterprise Institute on March 9 in Sea Island, Georgia. At the meeting, Cheney "respectfully but repeatedly" pressed Pence on concerns like President Trump taking a hard line towards NATO and deciding to withdraw troops from Syria "during the middle of a phone call".
Cheney also said to Pence, "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," according to a Washington Post transcript.
The comments from the gathering were supposed to be "off the record", but a transcript leaked from a person who was "not authorized to share material" from the event.
"I worry that the bottom line of that kind of an approach is we have an administration that looks a lot more like Barack Obama than Ronald Reagan," the former Vice President continued.
The critique of Pence from former VP Cheney highlights one of the many debates currently ongoing in the GOP party. Many former GOP "hawks", like Cheney have been at odds with Trump's engagement of autocrats like Kim Jong Un and his non-interventionist style in the middle easy.
Pence reportedly "shrugged off most of Cheney's anxieties" and praised Trump as a "candid and transformational leader."
What was supposed to be a chat at AEI's annual world forum between Pence and Cheney turned into a nearly full blown "academic exercise" with Cheney questioning Pence while the current VP did his best to retort with force. The conversation surprised the conference attendees and caused murmurs in the room throughout the talk.
After pleasantries were exchanged, Cheney immediately went after Trump, expressing concern about reports that he "supposedly doesn't spend that much time with the intel people, or doesn't agree with them, frequently." He also immediately expressed concern with suspending military activities with South Korea and Trump's handling of North Korea.
"I don't know, that sounded like a New York State real estate deal to me," Cheney said of Trump's pursuit of a policy to have the Germans, the Japanese, and the South Koreans pay total cost for U.S. deployments there, plus 50 percent on top of that.
"It's a lot more complicated than just, 'Here's the bottom line. Write the check,'" Cheney continued.
"We're going to continue [to] train. We're going to continue to work closely with South Korea. We have a tremendous alliance there. I think there is a tendency by critics of the president and our administration to conflate the demand that our allies live up to their word and their commitments and an erosion in our commitment to the post-World War II order."
The current VP continued, "But we think it's possible to demand that your allies do more to provide for the common defense of all of our nations and, at the same time, reaffirm our strong commitment - whether it be to the trans-Atlantic Alliance or to our allies across the Indo-Pacific."
Cheney again took exception to lack of troop deployments in certain areas and VP Pence finished by assuring the former VP that the Trump administration shared their devotion to defending the country.
"When the American people elected this president, they elected a president who expressed concern about American deployments around the world," Pence stated. "And they knew this was going to be a president that came and asked the fundamental questions about - you know, where are we deployed and do we really need to be asking men and women in uniform to be deployed in that part of the world? But, you know, it should come as no surprise to anyone: This President is skeptical of foreign deployments, and only wants American forces where they need to be."
Pence concluded: "But you can be confident, as one of my favorite hawks, we're going to continue to stand strong for a strong national defense with President Trump in the White House."