One of the most notable — and historical –aspects of the Bush administration’s exit has been former Vice President Dick Cheney’s unrelenting blunt criticism of the Obama administration on security matters — essentially continuing what some Democrats had characterized as the administration’s “support us or you might die” theme. Under it, unless you support and keep in place all of the Bush-Cheney policies, you are putting all of America at life-and-limb risk.
On Sunday Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, made it clear that the current administration won’t let Cheney’s allegations stand without a response from the present White House team. Here’s what he said on TV:
There are several ways to look at Cheney’s conduct.
–He genuinely feels the country’s security is at risk because he saw information as Vice President about the grave peril Americans are in. His comments stem from pure patriotism and fear of what Obama administration changes in Bush national security policies will do. Americans have not seen the raw data he has seen.
–He’s trying to protect his legacy in history and ego is at least partially involved. Some reports in recent years suggest that Cheney would have a viewpoint and seek to get information to bolster it, rather than weight all information in front of him.
I cited that one above for a good reason: Cheney’s comments about what will happen to the U.S. would hold more water if he was talking as the sole person who can see all the info that Americans are not allowed to see. In fact, a whole new team is now looking at the large picture in deteail and we have seen on other policies that Obama has kept some key ones in place. Attorney General Eric Holder has shown he can stand back and evaluate with his decision to dismiss the Ted Stevens case. Many non-talk-radio-political-culture Republicans were also highly critical of the Bush administration in the areas of civil liberties, torture and the relationship between the executive branch and the legislative branch.
Most damning to Cheney is history: you will be hard pressed to see a former Vice President or President come out and criticize the next administration in such a searing way. Cheney was polarizing as Vice President and remains a highly partisan figure — one who praises Rush Limbaugh, which for a certain number of Americans indicates he’s into demonization of those who oppose him and exaggeration when he offers an analysis.
Recent polling shows Cheney as disdained by a large chunk of Americans as he seemingly disdains the new administration and historical examples of how former Vice Presidents usually behave. Bottom line: if he was truly concerned, he would raise these concerns through other channels. Cheney’s dissing of the Obama administration has now become a biweekly affair.
Another issue is whether the administration should answer is verbal incoming missiles.
Cheney has now become inseparable from the GOP’s talk-radio-political-culture wing so his words will be recycled throughout it. Plus, whenever a former Vice President talks he gets news coverage. There’s also a political plus to answering him: every time Cheney talks he reminds a large number of Americans why they used a big broom in November 2008. Republican Congressional leaders reportedly dearly wish he’d go to some undisclosed — and silent — location.
Here’s a Huffington Post transcript of Axlerod’s comments:
“First of all, I find it supremely ironic on a day when we were meeting with NATO to talk about the continued threat from al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan where they are still plotting against us seven years later; I think the question for Mr. Cheney is how could that be? How could this have gone so long? Why are they still in business? That is the fundamental threat that we face and it’s a little incredible to me that he would argue somehow that… forging an international alliance to finally pursue a strategy to defeat and dismantle al Qaeda and Afghanistan is going make us less safe. I think it was an unfortunate statement. Let me say in contrast how much we appreciate the way President Bush has behaved. He was incredibly cooperative during the transition and when he left, he said, ‘I wish you guys the best. I’m rooting for you.’ I believe that to be the case. And he has behaved like a statesman and, as I’ve said before, here and elsewhere, I just don’t think the memo got passed down to the vice president.”