Dick Cheney’s Classic Misdirection
On Thursday, President Barack Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney gave dueling speeches on National Security policy. The man who is trying to re-invent hope versus Darth Cheney is the way this blogger interpreted what was billed by the Washington press as the “Thrilla on The Hilla.”
By early afternoon the results were in. Obama gave a long, thoughtful better angels treatise on the rule of law and maintaining the moral high ground. Cheney, gave a shorter, pithier shout from the undisclosed location.
It was the Constitution versus the red, orange, yellow threat meter.
Cheney purports to be taking to the airwaves to be the lone, heroic voice of reason while the dreaded liberals ruin American. The truth is it’s all misdirection and dishonesty, just like his first term as veep.
The next day, through all of the partisan shouting came a lone voice of reason: David Brooks. Here’s how he began his op-ed piece in the May 22 New York Times:
President Obama and Dick Cheney conspired on Thursday to propagate a myth. The myth is that we lived through an eight-year period of Bush-Cheney anti-terror policy and now we have entered a very different period called the Obama-Biden anti-terror policy. As both Obama and Cheney understand, this is a completely bogus distortion of history.
The reality is that after Sept. 11, we entered a two- or three-year period of what you might call Bush-Cheney policy. The country was blindsided. Intelligence officials knew next to nothing about the threats arrayed against them. The Bush administration tried just about everything to discover and prevent threats. The Bush people believed they were operating within the law but they did things most of us now find morally offensive and counterproductive.
I’ve been on the partisan bandwagon, on the side of those railing against our use of torture, rendition and the extralegal Guantanamo detention camp. I have to say, though, Brooks is right. What got me keenly interested in the whole loosely described “torture” debate was Jane Mayer’s book, The Dark Side. Mayer’s book and other reporting has done as good a job as possible of documenting the abuses of Bush-Cheney in the first three years or so after 9/11. Not so much has been said or written about those within the Bush Administration who pushed back.
According to Brooks, what Obama has done is codified policies already under way by the last administration. What I would note is that Guantanamo should be closed and I don’t believe there was a Bushie anywhere near the president who was advocating closing Gitmo. Brooks also gives Obama praise for framing the issue in the Constitutional and moral terms that put us in better stead legally and internationally.
Brooks also makes the very interesting point that Cheney’s recent emergence from the bunker is as much about disagreeing with his own Administration’s drift away from his way of thinking as it is an attack on Obama. Brooks said on Charlie Rose Friday night that former Bush Administration officials have said recently that Cheney’s recent speeches sound a lot like arguments he made behind closed doors at the White House as policy drifted from the completely paranoid to the somewhat rational.
So why all the fuss from Dick?
Two reasons, I believe. Number one, Cheney is shopping for a book deal. Enough said about that. It’s obvious, the higher profile you have the higher advance you shall receive.
Number two, and perhaps most important for Cheney, is he wants to be able to say, “I told you so.” The thinking goes that in the event there is another spectacular terrorist attack here in the U.S., Cheney will be able to say, “I was right.” He will conflate the America’s move back toward lawfulness and honoring international treaties to weakness and a permissiveness that let the bad guys into the country.
Do not forget that Cheney is a student of history and politics. He has a graduate degree from the University of Wisconsin. While young men his age fought in Viet Nam and his fellow students rebelled around him, Cheney scurried back and forth across the Madison campus oblivious to the meaning of the world around him running some sort of poli sci quantitative project.
Cheney is irascible, but he also believes his own talking points. He’s also proud. Being able to say, “I told you so,” no matter how hollow an excercise that may be (and how twisted) is vindication for him.
Unfortunately, it seems to be that simple. Cheney’s sudden fondness for the spotlight is about money and pride.