Being better than Dick Cheney is nothing to write home about. Indeed, being compared to Dick Cheney at all is troubling enough. Yet, according to Politico, President Obama used the very defense of being better than the former V.P. to justify secrecy around his drone program to Democratic senators in private this week.
Two Democratic senators who spoke to Politico on the condition of anonymity said that, when challenged by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., over the administration’s resistance to releasing Justice Department memos justifying the targeted killing program, the president responded, “This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here.”
Again, President Obama, in defense of his targeted killing program, reportedly said, “This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here.”
It’s the sort of defense Dick Cheney would probably use, were he not already Dick Cheney.
Aside from the fact that the Obama administration’s shadow drone wars are comparable to Bush-era programs of rendition and wiretapping in terms of secrecy and extrajudicial executive action, the president’s reference to the former V.P. is in itself troubling. It invokes the same race-to-the-bottom, “at least the other guy is worse” logic that saw many dejected liberals trudge reluctantly to the voting booths for Obama last November. What a sad political epoque — when not being literally the worst, not being Dick Cheney — is a defense.