The softer side of Dick Cheney

The vice president used to attack John Kerry for suggesting that the war on terror required more than military might. Is Cheney coming around?

By Tim Grieve
Published March 23, 2005 3:58PM (EST)

During the 2004 presidential race, Vice President Dick Cheney savaged John Kerry for suggesting that the United States should fight "a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history." On the stump, Cheney said that a "sensitive war will not destroy the evil men who killed 3,000 Americans." And at the Republican National Convention, Cheney blasted Kerry for talking about "'a more sensitive war on terror,' as though al Qaida will be impressed with our softer side."

Could it be that John Kerry was right? A man named Dick Cheney seems to think so. In an interview in today's Washington Post, the vice president says that the United States must do a better job on the non-military aspects of its war on terror. "If we are going to be successful long-term in the war on terror and in the broader objective of promoting freedom and democracy in that part of the world, we have to get the public diplomacy piece of it right," Cheney says. "Up until now, that has been a very weak part of our arsenal."

That was exactly the point Kerry was making when Cheney mocked him. Of course, the Bush-Cheney approach to improving public diplomacy isn't exactly the one Kerry advocated: Whatever Kerry might have done as president, it's a safe bet that he wouldn't have nominated Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes to top posts at the State Department or Paul Wolfowitz to lead the World Bank. Cheney defends all of those moves in his interview with the Post, saying that Bush has made "some personnel changes that he felt would strengthen our capacity as an administration to achieve our objectives."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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Dick Cheney John F. Kerry D-mass.