01/19/2014 04:16 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

ABC News Contributor: 'Obama Is Dick Cheney'

ABC News contributor Mary Matalin compared President Obama to Dick Cheney on national security issues on Sunday, setting off a debate between the panel members on "This Week."

The roundtable was assessing the president's speech on Friday about reforms to the National Security Agency. Obama outlined proposals for changes to the NSA's programs, but largely defended the agency's domestic surveillance activities as necessary for protecting national security. David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, pointed out that they were the types of programs that Obama used to oppose as a senator.

Mary Matalin compared Obama to Dick Cheney, saying, "He was against it before he was for it. Now Barack Obama is Dick Cheney. He needs these policies, they are necessary for our security."

Fellow panelist Tavis Smiley said he did not agree with Matalin's assessment, but expressed his own doubts about Obama's position on domestic surveillance. "Edward Snowden might be on a postage stamp somewhere down the road," Tavis remarked. "He will be acknowledged ... How history is gonna regard what President Obama has done in this moment is an open question."

Remnick also disagreed with Matalin, saying, "The historical analysis between Dick Cheney and Barack Obama is absurd. This is a president who has withdrawn from two wars, this is a president who is constantly talking about the balance between — whether you agree with him or not — between a security state ... and keeping the country secure, and civil liberties."

He acknowledged that Obama has "struggled" with those issues, but added, "To call him Dick Cheney, I don't agree at all."

Watch the debate in the clip above.