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Dick Cheney Tells GOP Presidential Candidates to Watch Their Mouths

ABC/Heidi Gutman(LOS ANGELES) -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney isn’t picking sides in the battle for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, but in a remarkably candid interview with ABC News in Los Angeles, he had blunt words about the current field of GOP candidates.

Cheney accused Rick Perry of using “over-the-top” rhetoric, chided Michele Bachmann for overpromising on the campaign trail and said that Jon Huntsman’s views on Afghanistan hew too closely to President Obama’s.

The comments came in a far-ranging interview with ABC’s Jonathan Karl, during which Cheney discussed, at length, his health problems and criticism of his book, and reflected on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

But on the politics of today, Cheney said it was “inappropriate” for Perry to say that he would treat Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke “pretty ugly down in Texas.”

“I disagree with him,” Cheney said. “Obviously he’s just getting started on the campaign. I’m not sure if he were to get elected he’d want to use that kind of language on the Fed chairman.”

While Cheney acknowledged that “you don’t want somebody at the Federal Reserve who’s managing the place "for politics," he said the charge that Ben Bernanke or his predecessor Alan Greenspan have done that “isn’t a valid charge.”

The former vice president to George W. Bush, who has just published a controversial new memoir titled In My Time, did not spare Bachmann from criticism either, dismissing her contention that if elected she could usher in a period of $2-a-gallon gasoline.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “The free market’s going to work on gasoline prices.”

While several of the Republican candidates have said they oppose raising the debt ceiling under any circumstances, Cheney said such talk is irresponsible.

“You’ve gotta maintain the credit worthiness of the United States government.  And you’ve got an obligation obviously to pay your debts,” Cheney said, adding, “I didn’t have a problem with the notion that our guys would say, “But we’re not doin’ anything with the debt ceiling till you sign up for deficit reduction.”

And, as for Huntsman’s view that it’s time to draw down U.S. troops who were part of the surge strategy in Afghanistan, Cheney said that would be “a mistake.”

“President Obama has announced he’s going to take out the surge forces before the end of the next fighting season. That’d be a big mistake. There’s no military reason to do that. I think it’s driven primarily by politics -- that he wants to get the forces out before the election in 2012 because he made those kinds of commitments and promises,” Cheney said. “I have a sense that that’s what Jon Huntsman is advocating. It’s a mistake. I think we cannot take the chance of walking away from the importance of staying on top of the situation and helping the Afghans acquire the capacity to control their own sovereign territory.”

Cheney did have words of praise for one non-candidate: Hillary Clinton.  He suggested Secretary Clinton would have been a better president than Barack Obama and, with a Darth Vader smile, mischievously suggested she should run against him in 2012.

“Hillary Clinton is a pretty formidable individual.  And I think she’s probably the most competent person they’ve got in their cabinet,” he said. “Maybe if the Obama record is bad enough, and these days it’s not very good, given the shape of the economy, maybe there will be enough ferment in the Democratic Party so that there will be a primary on their side.  I think it’d be good for the country.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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