Politics & Media
Apr 01, 2009, 07:21AM

What's Dick Cheney Up To?

His media presence since Obama's tenure began is just a desperate man's attempt to fend off history.

Cheney.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Since leaving office earlier this year, former Vice President Dick Cheney has been making the rounds of friendly news organizations, most recently on March 15. Explaining the Bush Administration’s course of action after September 11, he said:

Once you go into a wartime situation and it’s a strategic threat, then you use all of your assets to go after the enemy. You go after the state sponsors of terror, places where they’ve got sanctuary. You use your intelligence resources, your military resources, your financial resources, everything you can in order to shut down that terrorist threat against you.

This, of course, comes only a month after his now-famous February 2009 interview with Politico, during which he claimed that Obama’s foreign policy decisions had led to a “high probability” of a terrorist attack sometime in the next few years. While in office, Cheney was a leading, if not the leading, advocate for the use of torture and other illegal methods against terror suspects. Presumably he thinks that since Obama has abandoned these methods, America is less well equipped to handle the still-present terrorist threat.

Cheney is making George W. Bush sound reasonable. When asked if he supported or opposed Obama’s policies, W. had this to say: "I love my country a lot more than I love politics," Bush said. "I think it is essential that he [Obama] be helped in office."

Condoleezza Rice also turned her nose up at Cheney’s recent comments. She said that all Americans, including former administration officials, “owe them [the Obama administration] our loyalty and our silence.”

It takes a lot to make Bush and Rice, two architects of the Iraq War, sound wise and magnanimous, but there you have it; Cheney managed it.

Cheney is certainly entitled to his opinions. But what’s less clear is why he keeps trying to make his case, nearly two months after he left office and at a time when most Americans are fixated on the recession and not national security.

Cheney isn’t giving these interviews out of deeply felt patriotism. He’s not trying to do Obama a favor by telling Americans that Obama is making America less safe, and he surely doesn’t believe that anyone in the Obama administration is going to listen to him. And not too many Americans believe him anymore, either.

If not patriotism, then what? Insanity? No, I don’t think Cheney is insane. Quite the opposite, in fact. Cheney was a successful civil servant under three administrations, so I think anyone who doubts his competence and rationality, however dark his reasoning might be, seriously underestimates the man.

It seems clear that Cheney is trying to protect himself from future criminal charges and/or war crimes tribunals. It’s no secret that Cheney authorized torture; he admits it. It’s also no secret that torture and other illegal acts were accepted as official administration policy. Previously secret White House memos drafted by the infamous John Yoo are steadily being released by the Obama administration. Those memos indicate how broadly the Bush administration interpreted its powers.

That leads us to the present situation. On the one hand you have what appear to be illegal activities—possibly even war crimes—that were explicitly approved by administration officials. And on the other, you have an Obama administration that isn’t going to engage in a Nixon-esque cover-up to protect government officials. And yet, Obama is unwilling to convene a commission to further investigate what went on.

The reason for the President’s reluctance, I think, is that Obama doesn’t want there to be the appearance of political retribution. Even those who hated what the Bush administration did would raise their eyebrows at efforts to exact political revenge. Conceivably, however, if the political furor regarding the Bush administration’s alleged acts died down, Obama, or the next president, could convene a bipartisan tribunal. But as long as the issue is politicized, such a tribunal wouldn’t be taken seriously and couldn’t hope to be effective.

By relentlessly taking to the airwaves, Cheney is re-politicizing issues that should be strictly legal ones. And as long as the issue of law-breaking remains political, and not legal, in nature, Cheney and his cohorts Donald Rumsfeld and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez can rest easy. By becoming the voice and face of the Bush administration’s wrongdoings, Cheney is gambling, so far correctly, that Obama won’t have the political guts to pursue him.

Cheney doesn’t have to delay for very long. He’s 68 years old and has a history of heart troubles, so if he can delay an investigation by a decade or so, there’s the chance that he might no longer be around to endure the humiliation of a trial and conviction. And with Cheney and others gone, would there be the political and societal will to pursue an investigation?

Like many others, I think that America needs a thorough investigation into what went on during the Bush administration. Not as political retribution, but as national catharsis. Here’s hoping that Cheney’s gamble is the last political act of a fearful, disgraced man. Let Cheney speak, but let’s not listen.

  • I've no doubt that many desire the "catharsis" of a tribunal investigating the Bush administration, although I think "revenge" is a more accurate word. But I disagree that the Obama administration isn't pursuing a "tribunal" because it doesn't want the appearance of "retribution." One, Obama has his hands full without such a distraction. More importantly, with two wars going on, it's more likely that even if Obama or his aides would like such an investigation, they're sensibly holding off. Who knows what their own administration might or might not do in the current wars or future ones? It's a bad precedent for a president not even three months into his first term.

    Responses to this comment
  • Is a Bush tribunal even necessary at this point, even as a pointless symbolic exercise? The man and his administration are out of office, and a liberal black man is in his place. Isn't that enough? I doubt even Michael Moore wants Bush and his cabinet members prosecuted any more.

  • I think you underestimate both the venality and vindictiveness of Michael Moore.

    Responses to this comment
  • This has to be one of the most insane comments ever to appear on Splice. First, I agree that there's plenty more important stuff on the government's plate right now, but we're talking about war crimes. There is nothing at all "symbolic" about prosecuting war crimes, SpongeLuke. Secondly, why on earth would the election of a "liberal black man" be seen as some kind of retribution for those crimes? What does that even mean? It's astounding to see conservatives chalk up the very rational desire to see these crimes prosecuted to mere "venality and vindictiveness." What in this world, exactly, should be prosecuted if not admitted authorization of torture during a voluntary, "preemptive" war?

    Responses to this comment
  • I hope we all remember Cheney going on TV in 2002 and saying -- quite sensibly -- that another terrorist attack is "not a matter of if, but when." In pretending now that he has a patented formula for fending off the INEVITABLE, Cheney is not just a liar. "Traitor" is an ugly word. So I'll keep searching for a more polite word that captures the essence of a man of such country-be-damned disingenuousness. His propaganda seems to have just one aim: to plant seeds that will gut Obama's legitimacy in the aftermath of a terror attack, at the very moment when the country will need unity and sobriety. As usual, Cheney's swagger is meant to mask incompetence, utter failure. If allowing CIA interrogators to go all Jack Bauer on suspects is, as Cheney now suggests, "absolutely essential" to America's safety, then Bush and Cheney should have used their time in office to sell the country on the need to amend the Constitution and legalize torture. They should have demanded that Americans either stand with them on torture or stand with that naive, al-Qaeda-loving coward George Washington. Instead, Bush told us soothing lies: "I've said to the people that we don't torture, and we don't." More on this here ... http://bit.ly/2uvINm

    Responses to this comment
  • Maybe Cheney's not technically insane, but his courting the media is nearly unprecedented this early in a new administration. Could be the 50 pills he must have gooble each day for his various heart ailments have put him in a permanently altered state.

    Responses to this comment

Register or Login to leave a comment