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CBS's Schieffer to Biden: Doesn't George Bush 'Also Need a Little Thanks for That?'

Words never spoken before by a CBS News journalist: "Do you think also that George Bush would also need a little thanks for that? I mean, does he share in the credit or not?" That very unusual quest to credit former President Bush came from Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation, since even for him Vice President Joe Biden's claim - "Iraq, I think, is going to be one of the great achievements of this administration" - was too much. Cuing up a retort from former VP Dick Cheney on ABC's This Week aired just over an hour earlier, Schieffer challenged Biden:

You said the other night to Larry King in an interview that you thought Iraq could be one of the "great achievements" of this administration. And I must say a lot of people, when you said that, said their response was "what?" This administration didn't have very much to do with Iraq and your friend, Dick Cheney, had a thought about that, as well. So let's listen to this."

Cheney suggested "for them to try to take credit for what's happened in Iraq strikes me as little strange" and recommended "it ought to go with a healthy dose of 'thank you, George Bush,' upfront."

Biden responded by asserting "we're not taking credit, we had to take responsibility" for "the messes that were handed to us" and he maintained he and the Obama administration had successfully brokered political agreements in Iraq and so bringing U.S. troops home next year will "be a great credit to the Iraqis and a great credit to our military and civilian leadership that we've moved to the point that a nation that was in chaos is now a nation not needing American forces, having a economic and political relationship with United States and a democracy."

At which time, Schieffer jumped in: "Do you think also that George Bush would also need a little thanks for that? I mean, does he share in the credit or not?"

Biden reluctantly acceded: "Well, sure. I'm happy to thank George Bush. I like George Bush, but I think, if you go back and think about it we've been on so many of your programs, it was constantly, what is their political plan?"

ABC's Jonathan Karl hosted this week's This Week and prompted Cheney to comment on Biden's contention.

NBC's David Gregory, the MRC's Rich Noyes noticed, also raised Biden's claim to Biden in an interview recorded on Saturday, but fairly gently, without any of the doubt conveyed by Schieffer. Gregory just wondered: "What did you mean by that?" On Meet the Press:

GREGORY: On Iraq you said this week that it will turn out to be one of this President's "great achievements." What did you mean?

BIDEN: What I meant by that is that I think he has taken office and managed the situation incredibly well in Iraq....

GREGORY: Was the war worth it?

BIDEN: No, I don't think the war was worth it, in the sense that we paid a horrible price, not only in loss of life, the way the war was mishandled from the outset, but we took our eye off the ball, putting us in a much different and more dangerous position in Afghanistan. We lost support around the world; it's taken a lot of hard work to get it back. But we were handed - we were dealt a hand and I think we're handling it incredibly well - that's presumptious to say. I think we're handling it very well, the Iraqis are handling it well, and we built on the positive things the Bush administration had initiated and we have jettisoned those things that were negative.

From the live interview, at 7:30 AM PST with Biden in Vancouver, on the Sunday, February 14 Face the Nation:

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you this, Mister Vice President, you said the other night to Larry King in an interview that you thought Iraq could be one of the "great achievements" of this administration. And I must say a lot of people, when you said that, said their response was "what?" This administration didn't have very much to do with Iraq and your friend, Dick Cheney had a thought about that, as well. So let's listen to this.

JOE BIDEN: I bet he did.

DICK CHENEY, ON ABC'S THIS WEEK: For them to try to take credit for what's happened in Iraq strikes me as little strange. If they're going to take credit for, fair enough, for what they've done while they're there. But it ought to go with a healthy dose of "thank you, George Bush," upfront.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So, your response to that one.

JOE BIDEN: Look, we're not, we're not taking credit, we had to take responsibility. When we took responsibility for the messes that were handed to us at the end of last year, an awful lot of very informed news people like you, Bob, were wondering whether or not that country could be put together.

From the beginning, I've been on your show so many times in the previous years, and my mantra was: This requires a political solution. I never once doubted that additional American forces would, in fact, meet the military objective of settling things down. But nothing would matter, we would not be able to leave unless there was a political accommodation.

What we did, and we did responsibly from the day we took office, is put that in motion. I have been to Iraq four times this year, fourteen times already. I have met with every single solitary one of the players in Iraq: Sunni, Shiate, Kurd, Christian. And we have been able to be a catalyst for them moving from settling their political differences on boundaries, on territory, on oil, etcetera, from the battle field to the political arena.

And so, I think, we've managed it very, very well. I think we're going to be able to be out of Iraq, with all of our combat troops - ninety thousand, by the end of August. I think we'll be out leaving behind an electorate that had just put in place a parliament that is viewed as legitimate across the board. And we'll be able to get out of Iraq at the end of 2011 leaving behind a stable government.

Now anybody who tells you, including Dick Cheney, that they knew how they were going to get there January of last year, I would find it somewhat surprising. I don't care who gets credit. My generic point is we have managed this very well thus far. The Iraqis have done really good work. If this works it'll be a great credit to the Iraqis and a great credit to our military and civilian leadership that we've moved to the point that a nation that was in chaos is now a nation not needing American forces, having a economic and and political relationship with United States and a democracy.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think also that George Bush would also need a little thanks for that? I mean, does he share in the credit or not?

JOE BIDEN: Well, sure. I'm happy to thank George Bush. I like George Bush, but I think, if you go back and think about it we've been on so many of your programs, it was constantly, what is their political plan?

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center