Category Archive 'Dick Cheney'
04 Sep 2014
Hat tip to Don Surber (on Facebook).
06 Sep 2011
I just finished reading Dick Cheney’s In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir
Dick Cheney is clearly a better memoirist than his one-time boss and both predecessor and successor at the Defense Department Donald Rumsfeld. I still have not finished Rumsfeld’s Known and Unknown which came out last February. I think that Cheney seems somehow more forthcoming, direct, and personally present in his recounting of his life and career in government service.
Most people, I’m sure, have seen reviews elsewhere noting that Dick Cheney did make a point of settling certain scores, noting the disloyalty of Colin Powell and his associates at the State Department toward the president and toward administration policy when the going got tough in Iraq, and highlighting the failure of Powell and his subordinate Richard Armitage to deflect a barrage of accusations of having outed Valerie Plame directed at innocent members of the administration which would have avoided a large-scale investigation and the appointment of a special prosecutor, and ultimately the conviction on a secondary-level charge of Dick Cheney’s own chief of staff, Scooter Libby,when Powell knew perfectly well that Armitage himself was the source of the leak. Cheney describes Powell’s silence in response to press inquiries after a 2003 cabinet meeting with not actually openly phrased, but nonetheless withering, contempt.
He is perhaps even harsher in describing at length Condolezza Rice’s dishonest and ill-advised efforts to obtain some chimerical version of a non-proliferation deal with North Korea, and her discreditably enthusiastic willingness to participate in sham agreements with that nefarious regime at the expense of the safety of the United States and other nations.
Beyond those best known portions of the Cheney memoir, I found a few other interesting details.
On 9/11, Dick Cheney found himself being forcibly propelled out of his office by the Secret Service, which led him hastily to the safer location of the underground Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), deep beneath the White House. Dick Cheney provides an inadvertent testimony to the general competence with the government spends its billions and trillions when he describes the subsequent scene.
While we were managing things from the PEOC, another meeting was under way in the White House Situation Room. The PEOC staff attempted to set up a videoconference to connect the two rooms, and we managed to get images of the Situation Room meeting up on one of our screens, but we couldn’t get any audio of the meeting. We were getting better real-time information from the news reports on TV, but because of a technical glitch, I couldn’t hear those reports when the video of the Sit Room meeting was on display. I told Eric [Feldman, Cheney’s deputy national security advisor] to get on the phone and try to listen to the Sit Room meeting, but after a few minutes he described the audio quality as ‘worse than lisening to Alvin and the Chipmunks at the bottom of a swimming pool.’ I told him to hang up. If something important was happening upstairs, they could send someone down or call us direct.
Visions of the gazillions of dollars spent on custom-built high tech communications equipment and infrastructure for the Presidential Emergency Operations Center and the White House Situation Room swam before my eyes. Clearly, they could have just gone out to Radio Shack and done better.
In describing his early career as congressman from Wyoming and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Dick Cheney serves up one very provocative little nugget.
In May 1987 I received a call from legendary CIA counterintelligence director James Jesus Angleton. He said that he had something of vital importance to tell me and that it could be conveyed only in person. …
I called Henry Hyde, the Intel Committee’s ranking Republican and invited him to sit in on the meeting. A few days later, before our scheduled meeting, Jim Angleton died. I never learned what it was he wanted to tell me.
There is the plot of a great spy thriller right there in the story of the unconveyed Angleton secret.
21 Mar 2010
In 1989, the future Rep. Alcee Hastings (D – 23FL) became the sixth federal judge in American history to be impeached and removed from office. He was found guilty of bribery and corruption, having accepted $150,000 to arrange a favorable sentence.
Hastings was subsequently nonetheless elected to the House of Representatives from a safe seat representing a “minority-majority” racially-gerrymandered district in 1992. Hastings was in line to succeed to the Chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee when democrats regained the majority in 2006 and Nancy Pelosi expressed the intention of passing over Jane Harman (D – 36CA), but Hastings’ dishonorable past was just little too much. Hastings is now chairman of the Legislative/Budget Process sub-committee of the House Rules Committee, where he gets to “just make stuff up.”
02 Dec 2009
Bill Siegel contends that Americans by 2012 are likely to have had it right up to here with Barack Obama’s smooth, cool, and artfully glib insincerity. He could very well be right, and it seems to me that when he talks about the stylistic and substantive opposite of Obama, he’s really talking about Dick Cheney.
Obama, the proficient law student and law lecturer, is well trained in â€œissue spottingâ€ â€“ being able to articulate both sides of an issue. Perhaps his most effective public manipulation lies in his ability to briefly state something worth recognizing on the other side of an issue, thus convincing the audience that because he can see the complexity of our problems he must know the best solution.
Obama will frequently answer a tough question by saying â€œon the one hand we want X, while on the other we certainly must be concerned with Y.â€ He will avoid a clear answer, inviting the audience to trust to him on the presumption that, because he could mention something of value to both sides, he must be best suited to work out the optimal compromise. The liberal media fell completely for this simple and cheap trick. Meanwhile, Obama, the hustler, never intended to solve any problem with any solution other than one from the far left. …
He has been the consummate salesman, or â€œflim-flam man,â€ coming into town ready to sell whatever the audience will accept, only to later figure a way to weasel his way out of living up to his word. After awhile, those who look at him with open eyes bounce between fear to panic and back as they realize the country has elected a leader who, along with his close staff, is willing to sacrifice the most fundamental priorities of the nation with the most shocking cold-heartedness. His complete lack of â€œrealâ€ emotion, covered up by a false, almost Las Vegas â€œRat Packâ€ veneer, has recently become apparent to more and more of the nation.
Finally, â€œchangeâ€ has been Obamaâ€™s calling card. And, as with any hypnotic induction, vagueness can powerfully bind many a subject when left to the mind of the listener to clarify. Nevertheless, many Obama supporters are beginning to realize that the â€œchangeâ€ he or she imagined the president to have suggested is different from the almost complete overhaul of our national fabric that Obama and his minions have been pounding out. As more of the country discovers this, they are becoming less interested in a radical and massive transformation of the country and more interested in simple â€œbaby stepâ€ improvements while maintaining the integrity of our system.
All of this leads one to consider whether what is truly needed to beat Obama is to have someone who doesnâ€™t resemble him. Perhaps what will emerge for Republicans is not a charismatic, dream-laden salesman who knows how to wow audiences, handle Oprah, and romance NBC â€œnewsâ€ personalities, but rather someone who is simple and, perhaps, not very good looking or stylish at all.
Perhaps they should choose someone not looking to be on Mt. Rushmore before he can ease the economy and address the true faults in our health care system while not destroying it. Perhaps someone who doesnâ€™t claim to be open and transparent while keeping under wraps critical aspects of his past; one whose past is easily understandable and relatable. One who, to his core, is American, from America, and, most importantly, loves America. One who is strong enough to fight for America, show he is prepared to fight, believe in its exceptionalism, and no longer apologize for any so-called â€œharmsâ€ upon which the worldâ€™s numerous â€œvictimâ€ groups have cast their identities. One who sees clearly the dangers of â€œradicalâ€ Islam and has tired of pretending it is anything other than what it says and does. And one who tells the truth and loves the truth.
Read the whole thing.
24 Oct 2009
What kind of people are running the Executive Branch and conducting American policy? Paul Mirengoff points out a revelation in Dick Cheney’s speech that a cursory reading could easily have missed, and points out how much this particular political exchange reveals about the ethics and character of Barack Obama and his administration.
In his speech last night to the Center for Security Policy, former vice president Cheney blew the whistle on some egregious dishonesty by the Obama administration:
Recently, President Obama’s advisors have decided that it’s easier to blame the Bush Administration than support our troops. This weekend they leveled a charge that cannot go unanswered. The President’s chief of staff claimed that the Bush Administration hadn’t asked any tough questions about Afghanistan, and he complained that the Obama Administration had to start from scratch to put together a strategy.
In the fall of 2008, fully aware of the need to meet new challenges being posed by the Taliban, we dug into every aspect of Afghanistan policy, assembling a team that repeatedly went into the country, reviewing options and recommendations, and briefing President-elect Obama’s team. They asked us not to announce our findings publicly, and we agreed, giving them the benefit of our work and the benefit of the doubt. The new strategy they embraced in March, with a focus on counterinsurgency and an increase in the numbers of troops, bears a striking resemblance to the strategy we passed to them. They made a decision – a good one, I think – and sent a commander into the field to implement it. Now they seem to be pulling back and blaming others for their failure to implement the strategy they embraced . . .
In short, the Obama administration falsely claimed that the Bush administration had done no planning or analysis regarding the worsening situation in Afghanistan, even though it (1) knew this was false, (2) had asked the Bush administration not to disclose its work, and (3) relied in part on the same work it claimed the Bush administration had not performed. …
(W)hat Cheney described last night goes well beyond lack of classâ€¦ (T)he rank, opportunistic dishonesty described by Cheney demonstrates an affirmatively bad character. And an administration craven enough to engage in it is a dangerous, potentially thuggish administration.
22 Oct 2009
Last night, Dick Cheney gave a speech at the Center for Security Policy in which he surveyed the Obama Administration’s short and dismal foreign record. He condemned the cancellation of the missile defense of Central Europe, strongly criticized what he referred to as “turning the guns on” US Intelligence officers, and called upon Barack Obama to stop dithering and keep his word on Afghanistan.
Every time I hear Dick Cheney speak, I regret that he was occupying the second position on the Republican ticket in 2000 and 2004 instead of the first.
Most anyone who is given responsibility in matters of national security quickly comes to appreciate the commitments and structures put in place by others who came before. You deploy a military force that was planned and funded by your predecessors. You inherit relationships with partners and obligations to allies that were first undertaken years and even generations earlier. With the authority you hold for a little while, you have great freedom of action. And whatever course you follow, the essential thing is always to keep commitments, and to leave no doubts about the credibility of your countryâ€™s word.
27 Jul 2009
Lizzie Widdicombe, in this week’s New Yorker, describes the beautiful people taking in the Bactrian Treasure Horde (fresh from darkest Afghanistan) at the Met, nibbling mutton at La Grenouille, and lamenting still another of Darth Cheney’s enormities.
Elisabetta Valtz-Fino, the exhibitâ€™s curator, led a tour of the treasures, which included tiger, dolphin, and ram designs (the nomads loved animals). There was a jeweller in the crowdâ€”Tim McClelland, of McTeigue & McClelland jewellers, which helped sponsor the eventâ€”and he studied the back of a collapsible gold crown. â€œThis is the Hubble space telescope of jewelry,â€ he said. Adrianne Dicker-Kadzinski, a former Morgan Stanley investment banker, said she had done a stint in Afghanistan, in 2004, with the U.S. Army Reserve. â€œKabul itself was very sad,â€ she said. â€œThe whole country is like a moonscapeâ€”brown, brown, brown.â€
Afterward, there was a lamb dinner at La Grenouille (â€œI feel very Afghan eating this,â€ the writer Ann Marlowe said) and a raffle: all the guests received little keys; one of them opened a treasure chest containing a special gold-and-lapis bracelet made by McClelland. (The winner was a J. P. Morgan asset manager named Sophie Bosch de Hood.)
As excited as people were to have seen the Bactrian jewels, a sadness wafted over the evening: because of security concerns, the hoard canâ€™t be displayed in Afghanistan. â€œIâ€™m so mad at Dick Cheney,â€ said Caroline Firestone, an eighty-year-old philanthropist, who has known the former Vice-President for a long time. â€œI once gave him my house in Wyoming so he could stay there at Christmas. And he never let me come and talk to him about Afghanistan.â€
13 Jul 2009
Now we know, at least vaguely, what was behind the accusations against the CIA made in that June 26th letter from seven democrat House members.
After some months on the job, Leon Panetta learned of an inactive, never really implemented but potentially controversial, CIA program, initiated in the direct aftermath of 9/11, which proposed assassinating some important al Qaeda leaders. It would appear that such shenanigans were too Jack Bauer for the Bush Administration, so despite ink being spilled, findings being drafted, and probably warrior spooks training with silenced pistols off somewhere in the Virginia woods, nothing real ever came of any of this.
But good little Leon felt obliged to tattle anyway, and seven democrats thought the opportunity to play Gotcha! with the Agency was too good to miss. Ergo, the famous letter of June 26th. The Sunday Times dutifully clocked in yesterday with a deeply-troubled, chin-stroking article about the perfidy of Dick Cheney in concealing such dastardly doings.
The Wall Street Journal today actually supplies a lot more of the substance.
A secret Central Intelligence Agency initiative terminated by Director Leon Panetta was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives, according to former intelligence officials familiar with the matter.
The precise nature of the highly classified effort isn’t clear, and the CIA won’t comment on its substance.
According to current and former government officials, the agency spent money on planning and possibly some training. It was acting on a 2001 presidential legal pronouncement, known as a finding, which authorized the CIA to pursue such efforts. The initiative hadn’t become fully operational at the time Mr. Panetta ended it.
In 2001, the CIA also examined the subject of targeted assassinations of al Qaeda leaders, according to three former intelligence officials. It appears that those discussions tapered off within six months. …
One former senior intelligence official said the program was an attempt “to achieve a capacity to carry out something that was directed in the finding,” meaning it was looking for ways to capture or kill al Qaeda chieftains.
The official noted that Congress had long been briefed on the finding, and that the CIA effort wasn’t so much a program as “many ideas suggested over the course of years.” It hadn’t come close to fruition, he added. …
(A) small CIA unit examined the potential for targeted assassinations of al Qaeda operatives, according to the three former officials. The Ford administration had banned assassinations in the response to investigations into intelligence abuses in the 1970s. Some officials who advocated the approach were seeking to build teams of CIA and military Special Forces commandos to emulate what the Israelis did after the Munich Olympics terrorist attacks, said another former intelligence official.
“It was straight out of the movies,” one of the former intelligence officials said. “It was like: Let’s kill them all.”
The former official said he had been told that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney didn’t support such an operation. The effort appeared to die out after about six months, he said. …
(I)n September 2001, as CIA operatives were preparing for an offensive in Afghanistan, officials drafted cables that would have authorized assassinations of specified targets on the spot.
One draft cable, later scrapped, authorized officers on the ground to “kill on sight” certain al Qaeda targets, according to one person who saw it. The context of the memo suggested it was designed for the most senior leaders in al Qaeda, this person said.
Eventually Mr. Bush issued the finding that authorized the capturing of several top al Qaeda leaders, and allowed officers to kill the targets if capturing proved too dangerous or risky.
Lawmakers first learned specifics of the CIA initiative the day after Mr. Panetta did, when he briefed them on it for 45 minutes.
What is really going on here is an attempt to gratify the democrat party’s bolshevik base with a little more witch hunting for Bush-Cheney war crimes, combined with the same party’s Congressional efforts to grab micromanagement control of US Intelligence operations.
Sensible people, and even Christopher Hitchens, have argued for some time that the battle with Congress over the CIA was lost long ago. It is past time to abolish the current agency, sell that campus at Langley for a football stadium, and establish a brand new unfettered agency operating covertly and free of Congressional oversight out of anonymous offices.
22 May 2009
Toby Harnden thinks yesterday’s speeches by Barack Obama and Dick Cheney represented a major public competition to mold national opinion and that the former Vice President won.
The spectacle of two duelling speeches with a mile of each other in downtown Washington was extraordinary. I was at the Cheney event and watched Obama’s address on a big screen beside the empty lectern that the former veep stepped behind barely two minutes after his adversary had finished.
So who won the fight? (it’s hard to use anything other than a martial or pugilistic metaphor). Well, most people are on either one side or the other of this issue and I doubt today will have prompted many to switch sides.
But the very fact that Obama chose to schedule his speech (Cheney’s was announced first) at exactly the same time as the former veep was a sign of some weakness.
The venues for the speeches said something. Obama showily chose the National Archives, repository for many of the founding documents of the US, and spoke in front of a copy of the Constitution – cloaking himself in the flag, as Republicans were often criticised for doing.
To hear Cheney speak, we were crammed into a decidedly unglamourous and cramped conference room at AEI, favourite think tank of conservative hawks.
The former veep’s speech was factual and unemotional and certainly devoid of the kind of hokey, self-obsessed, campaign-style stuff like this, from Obama’s address today: “I stand here today as someone whose own life was made possible by these documents. My father came to these shores in search of the promise that they offer. My mother made me rise before dawn to learn their truths when I lived as a child in a foreign land.”
In terms of Obama’s purported aim for his speech – to present a plan for closing Guantanamo Bay aimed at placating Congress – he failed. The reception on Capitol Hill was lukewarm with even Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Cheney’s speech wasn’t stylish, there were no rhetorical flourishes and the tone was bitingly sarcastic and disdainful at times. But it was effective in many respects and Cheney showed that Obama is not invulnerable.
The Politico agrees that Obama is on the defensive.
For the first time in his presidency, Americans are getting a glimpse of Barack Obama on defense.
Over the past few weeks, Obama has been back on his heels over torture and terror, issues on which he surely thought he had the upper hand.
And he spent Thursday battling charges from a man he surely thought he had vanquished in November, former Vice President Dick Cheney.
It took some worried calls from Capitol Hill Democrats, congressional aides said, to convince him otherwise â€“ that he needed to give a speech defending his plan for closing the terror prison at Guantanamo Bay, and rebutting Republican claims that the move would endanger Americans where they live.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and others made clear â€œthat weâ€™re going to need a lot more cover if weâ€™re going to be able to deal with this issue,â€ said one Democratic leadership aide.
So on a day when Obama would have rather been anywhere else â€“ remaking the auto industry or cheerleading an economic recovery â€“ he was sharing TV screens with Cheney. …
“The White House didnâ€™t want to do it â€” they want to drive the agenda, they want to be focused on health care right now,â€ said Heather Hurlburt, the executive director of the National Security Network, a Democratic think tank. â€œThe Hill asked him to do this and he did it.â€
That forcing of Obama’s hand marks a remarkable turnabout for a president who holds the most commanding position in American politics in two decades.
The most popular politician in the country found himself pushed up against a wall by one of the least popular in Cheney â€“ the leading voice in a budding Republican attack on Obama over national defense, one of the GOPâ€™s oldest (and most successful) cudgels against Democrats.
19 May 2009
Our special award for responsible journalism goes to that ever popular red-rag The Nation for today’s unsigned story, which quotes an alleged interview by arch-traitor Seymour Hersh with “Arab TV.”
The story contends, in broken and infelicitous English, that Pakistan president-elect Benazir Bhutto was murdered by a US assassination squad operating under the orders of Dick Cheney (!). Supposedly, she was killed because she had revealed in an interview in 2007 with Al Jazeera that Osama bin Ladin was dead, killed by Omar Saeed Sheikh.
In this November 2, 2007 (14:38 video) interview with David Frost (at around 6:10), Bhutto refers to a “very key figure” in Pakistani security, a retired military officer, who she alleges “has had dealings” with (among others) “Omar Sheikh, the man who murdered Osama bin Ladin.”
But, as Omaron notes in this blog posting, Bhutto’s reference to bin Ladin was probably just a slip of the tongue.
While she did say what I (and now lots of others) thought she said, … both from reading the transcript and re-watching the clip, was that she simply misspoke, meaning to say â€œthe man who killed [WSJ reporter] Daniel Pearlâ€ – which Omar Sheikh is accused of – in such a matter of fact tone, because it is well known.
It appears she didnâ€™t realize what she said. Even Frost, that ever-cunning interviewer, seems to have missed it.
Speaking not for the Al Jazeera network, but for myself – as a journalist – I can say that the question should have been cleared up in the interview. But why I chose not to pursue the story: Not because of a conspiracy or a cover-up, but because it was an apparent slip of the tongue.
The Nation’s news story tells us that the US death squad is under the command of General Stanley McChrystal, just appointed by Obama as US commander in Afghanistan, and that it also killed Lebanese Prime Minister Rafique Al Hariri and the army chief of Lebanon.
One can only observe that the Nation’s news reporting fully equals its political and economic analysis in responsibility, accuracy, and quality.
Ooops! What do you know? Why, Seymour Hersch himself denies having said any such thing, and calls the Nation’s report “complete madness.”
Are they embarassed, do you suppose?
16 May 2009
Mark Steyn relishes the inconsistencies of the way democrats treat holding certain particular controversial positions differently depending on who it is that is holding them.
Question: What does Dick Cheney think of waterboarding?
Heâ€™s in favor of it. He was in favor of it then, heâ€™s in favor of it now. He doesnâ€™t think itâ€™s torture, and he supports having it on the books as a vital option. On his recent TV appearances, he sometimes gives the impression he would not be entirely averse to performing a demonstration on his interviewers, but generally he believes its use should be a tad more circumscribed. He is entirely consistent.
Question: What does Nancy Pelosi think of waterboarding?
No, I mean really. Away from the cameras, away from the Capitol, in the deepest recesses of her (if sheâ€™ll forgive my naivete) soul. Sitting on a mountaintop, contemplating the distant horizon, chewing thoughtfully on a cranberry-almond granola bar, what does she truly believe about waterboarding?
Does she support it? Well, according to the CIA, she did way back when, over six years ago.
Does she oppose it? According to Speaker Pelosi, yes. In her varying accounts, sheâ€™s (a) accused the CIA of consciously â€œmisleading the Congress of the United Statesâ€ as to what they were doing; (b) admitted to having been briefed that waterboarding was in the playbook but that â€œwe were not â€” I repeat â€” were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were usedâ€; (c) belatedly conceded that sheâ€™d known back in February 2003 that waterboarding was being used but had been apprised of the fact by â€œa member of my staff.â€ As she said on Thursday, instead of doing anything about it, she decided to focus on getting more Democrats elected to the House.
Itâ€™s worth noting that, by most if not all of her multiple accounts, Nancy Pelosi is as guilty of torture as anybody else. Thatâ€™s not an airy rhetorical flourish but a statement of law. As National Reviewâ€™s Andy McCarthy points out, under Section 2340A(c) of the relevant statute, a person who conspires to torture is subject to the same penalties as the actual torturer. Once Speaker Pelosi was informed that waterboarding was part of the plan and that it was actually being used, she was in on the conspiracy, and as up to her neck in it as whoever it was who was actually sticking it to poor old Abu Zubaydah and the other blameless lads.
That is, if you believe waterboarding is â€œtorture.â€
I donâ€™t believe itâ€™s torture. Nor does Dick Cheney. But Nancy Pelosi does. Or so she has said, latterly.
Alarmed by her erratic public performance, the speakerâ€™s fellow San Francisco Democrat Dianne Feinstein attempted to put an end to Nancyâ€™s self-torture session. â€œI donâ€™t want to make an apology for anybody,â€ said Senator Feinstein, â€œbut in 2002, it wasnâ€™t 2006, â€™07, â€™08, or â€™09. It was right after 9/11, and there were in fact discussions about a second wave of attacks.â€
Indeed. In effect, the senator is saying waterboarding was acceptable in 2002, but not by 2009. The waterboarding didnâ€™t change, but the country did. It was no longer Americaâ€™s war but Bushâ€™s war. And it was no longer a bipartisan interrogation technique that enjoyed the explicit approval of both partiesâ€™ leaderships, but a grubby Bush-Cheney-Rummy war crime.
Dianne Feinstein has provided the least worst explanation for her colleagueâ€™s behavior. The alternative â€” that Speaker Pelosi is a contemptible opportunist hack playing the cheapest but most destructive kind of politics with key elements of national security â€” is, of course, unthinkable. Senator Feinstein says airily that no reasonable person would hold dear Nancy to account for what she supported all those years ago. But itâ€™s okay to hold Cheney or some no-name Justice Department backroom boy to account?
Well, sure. Itâ€™s the Miss USA standard of political integrity: Carrie Prejean and Barack Obama have the same publicly stated views on gay marriage. But the politically correct enforcers know that Barack doesnâ€™t mean it, so thatâ€™s okay, whereas Carrie does, so thatâ€™s a hate crime. In the torture debate, Pelosi is Obama and Dick Cheney is Carrie Prejean. Dick means it, because to him this is an issue of national security. Nancy doesnâ€™t, because to her itâ€™s about the shifting breezes of political viability.
But it does make you wonder whether a superpower with this kind of leadership class should really be going to war at all.
28 Apr 2009
Ross Douthat argues the position more tentatively than I would.
Watching Dick Cheney defend the Bush administrationâ€™s interrogation policies, itâ€™s been hard to escape the impression that both the Republican Party and the country would be better off today if Cheney, rather than John McCain, had been a candidate for president in 2008.
Certainly Cheney himself seems to feel that way. Last weekâ€™s Sean Hannity interview, all anti-Obama jabs and roundhouses, was the latest installment in the vice presidentâ€™s unexpected â€“ and, to Republican politicians, distinctly unwelcome â€“ transformation from election-season wallflower into high-profile spokesman for the conservative opposition. George W. Bush seems happy to be back in civilian life, but Cheney has taken the fight to the Obama White House like a man who wouldnâ€™t have minded campaigning for a third Bush-Cheney term.
Imagine for a moment that heâ€™d had that chance. Imagine that heâ€™d damned the poll numbers, broken his oft-repeated pledge that he had no presidential ambitions of his own, and shouldered his way into the race. Imagine that Republican primary voters, more favorably disposed than most Americans to Cheney and the administration he served, had rewarded him with the nomination.
At the very least, a Cheney-Obama contest would have clarified conservatismâ€™s present political predicament. In the wake of two straight drubbings at the polls, much of the American right has comforted itself with the idea that conservatives lost the country primarily because the Bush-era Republican Party spent too much money on social programs. And John McCainâ€™s defeat has been taken as the vindication of this premise.
We tried running the maverick reformer, the argument goes, and look what it got us. What Americans want is real conservatism, not some crypto-liberal imitation.
â€œReal conservatism,â€ in this narrative, means a particular strain of right-wingery: a conservatism of supply-side economics and stress positions, uninterested in social policy and dismissive of libertarian qualms about the national-security state. And Dick Cheney happens to be its diamond-hard distillation. The former vice-president kept his distance from the Bush administrationâ€™s attempts at domestic reform, and he had little time for the idealistic, religiously infused side of his bossâ€™s policy agenda. He was for tax cuts at home and pre-emptive warfare overseas; anything else he seemed to disdain as sentimentalism.
This is precisely the sort of conservatism thatâ€™s ascendant in todayâ€™s much-reduced Republican Party, from the talk radio dials to the partyâ€™s grassroots. And a Cheney-for-President campaign would have been an instructive test of its political viability.
I think Douthat is mistaken in supposing that Dick Cheney is unlibertarian or that, because he’s been willing to defend roughing up the three most prominent captured Al Qaeda conspirators to save LA, that Dick Cheney is wedded to a “national security state.”
Even smart and reasonably conservative members of the national commentariat too frequently check their skepticism at the door and buy into the river of BS discharging from the polluted streams of the establishment media. That alleged “national security state” amounted to some unnecessary navel-gazing memos and essentially the continuation of exactly the very same data-mining practices which the federal government began carrying on under Bill Clinton and the same covert scrutiny of overseas correspondence that went on under every other president since the 1940s.
Personally, I suspect that, given a chance, Cheney would prove more conservative about foreign commitments and a lot less Wilsonian than George W. Bush.
It’s true that Dick Cheney, in the manner of all dangerously competent and articulate national conservative figures, has been on the receiving end of the MSM’s scorched earth policy, which has systematically portrayed him as the living equivalent of Darth Vader. In reality, Dick Cheney is a salt-of-the-earth hometown American guy, just an exceptionally bright example of the genre. Real acquaintance would make Americans recognize Dick Cheney as the super-competent downtown businessman, the guy who runs the annual barbecue in his capacity as head of the local Rotary, the avuncular man of affairs you turn to when you need advice on complicated financial matters.
I think Ross Douthat is right in believing that we’d have had the odds overwhelmingly against us running Cheney last Fall, and maybe we would still have lost, but in that case we’d have been better off for fighting the good fight, and we’d have proud of having supported a worthy candidate instead depressed over being associated with a dufus like McCain.
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