Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Thursday night he was concerned by President Donald Trump’s decision made earlier this week to withdraw U.S. forces from Syrian territory now under attack by the Turkish military.
The Kurds who controlled the border region were American allies who helped the U.S. drive the Islamic State terror group from territory it once held across Syria and Iraq. Cheney, 78, said he worried the withdrawal could undermine the relationship between the U.S. and its Kurdish allies.
The declaration was part of a wide-ranging conversation Cheney had with former Gov. Scott Walker at Eaton Chapel on Beloit College’s campus Thursday night. The conservative student group Young Americans for Freedom hosted the event.
Walker asked questions sent from the crowd via text message on other issues of national security, climate change, the Trump impeachment inquiry and other topics.
While Cheney said he supported Trump in 2016 and voted for him, he said he doesn’t agree with him on everything, including some issues related to U.S. relationships with international allies and adversaries.
The former vice president said it’s important to give Trump credit for opening dialogue with North Korea but that it’s critical for administration officials to understand who the “bad actors” in the world are.
Cheney also called Russia a significant threat to the U.S. and its allies. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aspirations are worrisome and that he, unlike Trump, will always view Putin as a Soviet intelligence officer.
On the trade war with China, Cheney said there was merit to placing tariffs on Chinese goods but that there will come a point where it goes too far, especially when it comes to tariffs on agricultural products.
“I’m a free trader and I don’t like tariffs,” he said. “You can overdo it, and I think we are about there.”
Cheney touched briefly on a variety of other national issues:
On Trump’s impeachment inquiry:
- Cheney said it’s critical the issue gets resolved because people are spending their time on the issue with little else getting done.
On climate change:
- Cheney said it’s increasingly obvious things are happening to the environment because of the world’s reliance on fossil fuels. Although he said a broad set of policies is needed to minimize environmental impact, he said there are people whose ideas would hinder large portions of the U.S. economy.
On gun control:
- Cheney said he would be in favor of more background checks and stronger enforcement of existing laws.
On LGBTQ rights:
- Cheney said his daughter, Mary, is gay and married to a woman with a family and is an important part of their lives.
“Freedom means freedom for everybody, and it’s a very important principle and proposition to follow,” Cheney said.
On “Vice,” the satirical biopic about the vice president:
- Cheney laughed off a question about how he thinks the movie will affect his legacy, saying he doesn’t go near Hollywood.
As with the scheduled appearance at the college by former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince, the event attracted a number of protesters. Protests led to a cancellation of Prince’s talk, but Cheney’s event went off without interruption.
With attendees lined up outside to enter Eaton Chapel, protesters nearby held banners that read “End Imperialism” and “Try Cheney for Mass Murder.”
One protester who was handing out fliers said they were trying to keep the protest civil.
One man, David Stocker of Rockford, Illinois, played his guitar and harmonica and sang his original song, “Desperate Dick Cheney.”
“I came all the way from Rockford in the rain to sing this song for Dick Cheney,” he said.
Members of the Young Americans for Freedom group sang “The Star Spangled Banner” to try and drown out Stocker’s performance.
Gabe Gonzalez, chairman of Students for an Inclusive Campus, said his group organized a block party to oppose the event.
Other students and alumni also tried to capitalize on Cheney’s visit to raise money for RAICES, a nonprofit offering legal help to immigrants and refugees.