Isn’t it time to really say it? Former Vice President Dick Cheney has morphed into a former Vice President who is violating nearly every protocol of the vast majority of former Presidents and former Vice Presidents in American history by not just actively — and repeatedly and loudly — opposing someone of the opposite party who displaced his administration, but is now polarizing the country in yet another unprecedented way.
You have to search pretty hard to find an example of a former Vice President (or former President) who blasts a sitting President about a policy that hasn’t had time to work yet and has not even been formally ANNOUNCED YET — and of essentially betraying his country by giving aid and comfort to terrorists, being on the opposite site of America’s military, and, overall, a weak and therefore dangerous-to-the-country wimp.
American politics is no longer about merely opposing someone on an issues and debating those issues passionately. It’s now about who is the biggest danger. And then people scratch their heads in amazement about reports that threats to Obama’s life are up 400 percent more than threats to when George W. Bush was President?
The way 21st century politics and media works, Cheney will now get his ink, lots of bandwidth, and broadcast time and those Republicans who are part of the talk radio political culture will applaud him and also go after those who dare to criticize him (Cheney’s critics must also clueless…dangerous.. closet leftists…on the Democratic payroll…don’t understand or care about terrorism or the military and want the terrorists to win and the military to lose). The bottom line is that Cheney’s sub message seems to be:
Don’t even give this guy a chance, folks: he’s a weak, naive, indecisive wimp and doesn’t care about the military or protecting America. Dig in your heels right NOW! Don’t even bother listening to his speech. This guy doesn’t have a clue.
And herein lies the supreme irony: the man who hinted in his speeches while in office that Democrats and/or those who questioned his policies were perhaps (ahem) a…tad less than patriotic or too dense to support policies that truly protected America (his polices) cannot be confused with former Vice President Nixon when JFK was President; Hubert Humphrey when Nixon was President; Walter Mondale when Ronald Reagan was President, Dan Quayle, when Bill Clinton was President; Al Gore when George W. Bush was President.
Or even with GWB himself.
These former Vice Presidents (and Presidents) throughout history — who believed we are all in this together, that our polity works better when former top federal executives try to help those who follow succeed on measures for the common good — were all apparently too wimpish to take a stand (and divide the nation on the eve of a sitting President’s speech) like Cheney.
Cheney has morphed into America’s quintessential talk show political culture former Vice President: constantly on the attack, constantly demonizing, constantly dividing the nation between the good guys who “get it” and the bad and stupid guys (who usually have Ds or Ls in front of their names) who don’t, constantly suggesting via his statements that those who supported him should not to even think about giving a sitting President’s policies a chance before shifting into demonization and attack mode.
He’s constantly offering a call to political, partisan arms — and a call for those on his side to stick their fingers in their ears when the other side speaks.
The issue here is not the strength of Obama’s foreign policy or how efficiently it has been implemented. That could be discussed more seriously if Cheney truly wanted to.
But he has chosen not to.
Read his comments to The Politico and you wonder if they were written by Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh.
In a 90-minute interview at his suburban Washington house, Cheney said the president’s “agonizing” about Afghanistan strategy “has consequences for your forces in the field.”
“I begin to get nervous when I see the commander in chief making decisions apparently for what I would describe as small ‘p’ political reasons, where he’s trying to balance off different competing groups in society,” Cheney said.
QUESTION: Where is is proof that it is small “p” political reasons? It is a partisan political assumption.
“Every time he delays, defers, debates, changes his position, it begins to raise questions: Is the commander in chief really behind what they’ve been asked to do?”
TRANSLATION: Obama has taken a long time so the military thinks he’s not behind them. Does this mean Obama is rooting for an American loss? Doesnt’ like the troops? Doesn’t feel the burder of office as he decides whether to sign an order that will result in more American deaths? LBJ felt it during Vietnam; George W. Bush felt it during Iraq. The Vietnam war and Iraq war were not the products of Presidents who didn’t care for the troops or who didn’t support the troops. And when the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam it didn’t mean the White House didn’t care about those who died earlier or who were there at the end.
And then there’s this:
Cheney was asked if he thinks the Bush administration bears any responsibility for the disintegration of Afghanistan because of the attention and resources that were diverted to Iraq. “I basically don’t,” he replied without elaborating.
On Obama’s likely announcement for a troop build up coupled with an exit time frame:
But Cheney said the average Afghan citizen “sees talk about exit strategies and how soon we can get out, instead of talk about how we win.
“Those folks … begin to look for ways to accommodate their enemies,” Cheney said. “They’re worried the United States isn’t going to be there much longer and the bad guys are.”
And he pushes the polarization button:
During the interview, Cheney laced his concerns with a broader critique of Obama’s foreign and national security policy, saying Obama’s nuanced and at times cerebral approach projects “weakness” and that the president is looking “far more radical than I expected.”
“Here’s a guy without much experience, who campaigned against much of what we put in place … and who now travels around the world apologizing,” Cheney said. “I think our adversaries — especially when that’s preceded by a deep bow … — see that as a sign of weakness.”
Specifically, Cheney said the Justice Department decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, in New York City is “great” for Al Qaeda.
And then there’s this quote — unprecedented in America’s political history (If you find a former President or former Vice President who ever said anything about someone who replaced them, kindly send us the link — an actual parallel with to these words and this phrase, please uttered by a former Vice President against a sitting President of the other party):
“One of their top people will be given the opportunity — courtesy of the United States government and the Obama administration — to have a platform from which they can espouse this hateful ideology that they adhere to,” he said. “I think it’s likely to give encouragement — aid and comfort — to the enemy.
Accusing the president of giving aid and comfort to the enemy is such a disgusting charge, such a deeply divisive, unAmerican tactic, it would be excoriated if it came from some far right blogger. That it comes from a former vice-president, violating every conceivable protocol (as he did in office), reminds me of why Cheney and Cheneyism remain such a threat to core American and Western values.
If you truly use a position of such authority to show contempt for the sitting president, to accuse him of treason, to attack him on the day he addresses the nation in a critical address, to divide him from the troops, to use sacred issues of war and peace which a president is solemnly engaging as a political weapon or as a vain and self-serving attempt to make your own record look better, then you have no core respect for the institutions and traditions and civility that make a constitutional democracy possible.
Look also at the focus of his attack: the civil trial of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed in New York City. All Cheney can see is the opportunity for such a figure to grandstand, as if KSM’s rantings will have any effect but to demystify him. What Cheney cannot see – because he has no deep appreciation of it – is the beauty of treating a monster like KSM to the stringent calm of Western justice. And what Cheney fears – for he is no fool – is that the trial will also reveal Cheney’s torture regime, how it distorted intelligence, prevented bringing suspects to justice and tarred the US for ever as a country that now does what its enemies used to do: abuse, torture and mistreat prisoners in wartime.
May I use a word I don’t usually use?
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Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.