The Real 2016 Battle is Between Dick and Rand

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The Real 2016 Battle is Between Dick and Rand
By Dick Polman

It’s not exactly the Ali-Frazier “Thrilla in Manilla,” but the ongoing Rand Paul-Dick Cheney pugilism certainly packs a punch.

The libertarian ophthalmologist and the warlord emeritus have been pounding each other for months, and while it’s tempting to just kick back with popcorn and behold the entertainment, we do need to acknowledge the bout’s deeper meaning. Because this is really about something quite serious.

Republicans are profoundly split these days over foreign policy: between the non-interventionists who are increasingly wary of American military involvement abroad; and the neoconservative hawks who blundered us into Iraq and want us to keep flexing military muscle. Senator Paul is a leader of the non-interventionsts, a GOP faction that used to be tiny, but not anymore. The Iraq disaster has swelled their ranks, and Paul hopes to speak for them in the 2016 presidential primaries.

Cheney is freaked out about that; hence his creation of a new group, Alliance for a Stronger America, which is geared to rebut Paul at every turn. Cheney clearly hopes to influence the GOP’s foreign policy debate; his new group is set up to raise money from anonymous donors and steer the bucks to like-minded candidates.

Paul delivered the latest flurry of punches. Last Thursday, in his own Wall Street Journal column, he was clearly talking about Cheney: “Many of those clamoring for military action now (in Iraq) are the same people who made every false assumption imaginable about the cost, challenge and purpose of the Iraq war. They have been wrong for so long, why should we listen to them again?”Paul followed his column up with a weekend appearance on Meet the Press, where he questioned the credibility “of those who supported the Iraq war.” Cheney quickly retaliated on ABC’s This Week, labeling Paul as an “isolationist” and saying his views “didn’t work in the 1930s, it sure as heck won’t work in the aftermath of 9/11.”

It’s hard to say who started this spat, but Paul arguably did so in 2009, when he was caught on video suggesting that Cheney dragged us into Iraq to profit his old cronies at Halliburton. In the video, which surfaced this spring, Paul tells an audience of college students: “We need to be fearful of companies that get so big that they can actually be directing policy….Dick Cheney (during the ’90s) goes to work for Halliburton, makes hundreds of millions of dollars as their CEO. The next thing you know, he’s back in government, and it’s a good thing to go into Iraq.”

That was quite an insinuation, to say that Cheney ginned up a war to make money for his pals. When asked about the video this spring, Paul retreated a tad: “I’m not questioning Dick Cheney’s motives,” but nevertheless said: “When people go from high levels of government (Pentagon chief for Bush the elder) to high levels of industry that are dependent on government money, there’s a chance for a conflict of interest.”

Wow. You rarely hear that kind of talk in GOP circles, and Team Cheney didn’t like it. Cheney dispatched his daughter Liz (the daughter who bombed out in the Wyoming Senate race) to assert: “Senator Paul often seems to get his foreign policy talking points from Rachel Maddow.” Dad defended himself on CNN: “I had no relationship at all with the company throughout the time that I was vice president. I didn’t even talk to them….So (Paul) is obviously not familiar with the facts.”

Dick Cheney, of all people, claiming that someone else is fact-challenged. Insert joke here.

Who should we root for in this ongoing Republican intramural? Probably Paul (grading on a curve), if only because of Cheney’s serial lies and performance failures. What’s unknowable is whether Paul can actually win the GOP nomination as a non-interventionist. Paul is currently first (just barely) in the latest Real Clear Politics aggregation of polls of a crowded field of potential 2016 candidates, but the truth is, most GOP primary voters traditionally favor a muscular foreign policy.

It’d be nice if the party found a middle ground (is there no such thing as prudent, fact-based interventionism?), but that won’t happen any time soon. As Paul warned the Cheney camp back in April, “sharpen your knives, because the battle once begun will not end easily.”


Copyright 2014 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia (newsworks.org/polman) and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Philadelphia. Email him at [email protected]

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Author: Guest Voice

  • Chickenfarmer

    “I had no relationship at all with the company throughout the time that I was vice president. I didn’t even talk to them….”

    Didn’t Mr. Cheney receive sizable payments as part of a severance package from Halliburton while he was Vice President?

  • JSpencer

    Paul clearly has the moral high ground on this one, but I expect Cheney will be able to scare up a lot of $$$ with his new group. The military industrial complex is well heeled and isolationist talk won’t make it happy.

  • sheknows

    “…Senator Paul is a leader of the non-interventionsts, a GOP faction that used to be tiny, but not anymore.”

    Interesting how Paul can be a non interventionist like Obama and yet still find fault with his own beliefs.
    Paul is taking a stand only on the grounds that the US government has no business to enter into a war where we have not been directly attacked, yet blames Obama for the problems there . ( never having heard of George Bush).
    The man has some rational reasoning problems, and his opponent is a self righteous lunatic.
    Why the media has decided to give air and column time to this lunatic debate is the real question.

  • http://www.liberalvaluesblog.com Ron Chusid

    sheknows,

    As you very well know, the Republican “principle” of blaming everything on Obama and Democrats trumps all other principles. Therefore to them Iraq is Obama’s fault even if he was the one who opposed going there in the first place and he is the one who opposes further US combat troops there.

  • JSpencer

    The man has some rational reasoning problems, and his opponent is a self righteous lunatic.

    I’m going to go out on (fairly sturdy) limb here and say you’ve just described most of the GOP. Yes there are exceptions but their voices and influence are on the timid side.

  • bluebelle

    “When people go from high levels of government (Pentagon chief for Bush the elder) to high levels of industry that are dependent on government money, there’s a chance for a conflict of interest.”

    If that isn’t a repeat of the warning about the military industrial complex that Eisenhower gave us, I don’t know what is. And Cheney lied a lot during his 8 years in office. How credible is it that he never talked to any of their executives when he was VP? After he held that secret energy conference with other oil execs?? Nobody could even find out who attended until a Freedom of Information request was filed by Judicial Watch. I hate to admit it but I think Rand Paul was spot on about this issue- both in 2009 and in his recent statements. He is showing Cheney up for the charlatan and liar that he is without naming him

  • ShannonLeee

    Our current wars have left Americans war-weary. Paul will win this debate within the Republican party. Wars cost too much blood and money and we have very little to show for all of the blood and money we spent over the last decade. Republicans, conservatives, ect… do not want more wars.

    In end, it is just a bad investment.