Richard Bruce Cheney waited all of four months following the end of his disastrous tenure as vice president to begin castigating newly minted President Barack Obama, asserting before the American Enterprise Institute that by jettisoning the Bush-Cheney torture regime, the nascent administration was dangerously conveying “weakness and opportunity” to would-be terrorists. It was a brazen claim for Cheney to make, given that the disgraces for which he served as a despicably smug champion -- the Iraq war, Guantanamo, the Orwellian "enhanced interrogation" program -- were nothing if not Grade-A recruitment tools for terrorists, to say nothing of their ramifications for America's international standing. The ex-veep did allow, however, that Obama was capable of making "wise decisions," by which he meant decisions that perpetuated the war footing of the Bush era; Cheney specifically applauded the Obama administration's escalation of the U.S. war in Afghanistan -- a policy worthy of "our support," the trigger-happy Dick told his conservative audience.
But whereas our 46th vice president could once bring himself to admit that Obama adhered to many of the hawkish precepts that undergirded the Bush-Cheney foreign policy, he now depicts Obama as a man whose global agenda is no different from that of someone bent on the destruction of America. Appearing alongside his daughter Liz -- she's the one who was supposed to be a senator by now -- on the conservative Hugh Hewitt Show on Tuesday, Cheney assailed the recently announced framework for a nuclear deal with Iran, connecting the potential accord to a broader record that Cheney contended makes Obama the "worst president we've ever had."
"This is the most, one of the most radical regimes in history, headed up by the mullahs who believe in a very, sort of, I think, twisted version of the Koran, who are sworn to destroy Israel, who always have these big meetings. They did just this week, because they were negotiating in Geneva, shouting 'Death To America,'" Cheney said. "This is a totally radical regime that is the premiere sponsor of state terrorism in the world, and Obama’s about to give them nuclear weapons. It’s -- I can’t think of a more terrible burden to leave the next president than what Obama is creating here."
He continued: "[I]f you had somebody as president who wanted to take America down, who wanted to fundamentally weaken our position in the world and reduce our capacity to influence events, turn our back on our allies and encourage our adversaries, it would look exactly like what Barack Obama’s doing. I think his actions are constituted in my mind those of the worst president we’ve ever had."
Where to begin? I suppose we could start with the rich irony of Cheney's denunciation of any dealings with a "radical" foreign regime, given that he was chief lieutenant in an administration that lavished billions in armaments on the Wahhabist dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, a "premiere sponsor" of terrorism if ever such a thing existed. As for Iran, Cheney would have us see it as a grave threat to world peace -- never mind that its defense budget is positively dwarfed by that of the U.S. -- but he continues to boastfully defend the Iraq war, which deposed a bulwark against the Islamic Republic and emboldened the Iranian mullahs.
Speaking of that calamitous war: It was Cheney who appeared on "Meet the Press" on March 16, 2003 -- three days before the U.S. invasion -- to assure Americans that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat who possessed weapons of mass destruction, but that once the U.S. rolled in, "we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators." What followed the occupation instead was a relentless insurgency, which led public support for the war to plunge. With Americans so war-weary that they nearly denied Bush a second term, the Cheney the cheerleader assured Americans that victory was in sight, predicting in 2005 that the war would end by January 20, 2009, Bush's last day in office. In a line that epitomized the Bush administration's many foreign policy delusions, Cheney told Larry King that year that the insurgency was "in the last throes." Not quite: By the next year, Iraq was riven by sectarian civil war, and the year after that proved the deadliest for American forces. All told, more than 6,800 Americans and at least 133,000 Iraqi civilians would die in the war, all at a cost of more than $2 trillion.
But more, please, about the "terrible burden" Obama will leave his successor.
I don't like to set myself up for disappointment, so I never expected Cheney to follow the path taken by another Strangelovian figure, Robert S. McNamara, who late in life sought to atone for his role in the catastrophic Vietnam War. Nor was it ever realistic to hope that, like Dubya, Cheney would at least keep his mouth shut vis-à-vis the Obama administration. But it's nothing short of maddening to see Cheney given an exalted platform, feted at swank soirees, and treated as anything other than the shameless flouter of the truth he is.