It caused a bit of a kerfuffle earlier this summer when Fox News (mildly) challenged GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump in a primary debate and then (tepidly) defended their star anchor Megyn Kelly when he subsequently treated her with sexist disdain. Some people expected Roger Ailes to do everything in his power to destroy Trump, since he clearly wants to elect a Republican to the presidency and the conventional wisdom is that Trump cannot win. But money comes first, politics second; and Trump is a huge ratings winner for all the cable networks, so Ailes contained the explosion as best he could and moved on.
But how to explain this new apostasy, which is so shocking that you have to wonder if there isn't a tear in the Murdoch matrix somewhere. Liz and Dick Cheney appeared with Chris Wallace on Sunday to talk about their new book, and Wallace actually confronted them with some some inconvenient facts:
Wallace highlighted how the Bush administration dealt with Iran, pointing out how Iran went from zero centrifuges in 2007 to over 5000 in 2009. He asked, “In fairness, didn’t you leave––the Bush-Cheney administration leave––President Obama with a mess?”
Cheney rejected that assertion and pointed to the removal of Saddam Hussein as a blow against Iran. Wallace brought up the centrifuges again, and Cheney said that was “under Obama’s watch, not under our watch.”
Wallace again point out this happened between 2007 and 2009.
He moved on to Iraq, which the Cheneys have criticized Obama over, especially regarding the removal of U.S. troops in 2011. Wallace pointed out the original status of forces agreement was negotiated under George W. Bush.
Liz and Dick were not amused. The official propaganda line says that the Ayatollah was so shocked and awed by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's big swinging leadership that when we invaded he threw his robe over his head and ran around in circles, screaming at his minions to tear up all plans to make a nuclear weapon before bursting into tears and taking to his bed for a good old fashioned cry.
That didn't actually happen. In fact, the invasion of Iraq was cheered by the Iranian regime; they all high fived each other over their good fortune. Who could have ever predicted that America would be so generous as to take out Iran's most hated rival on both a sectarian and nationalist basis for them? To then refuse to even engage in non-proliferation discussions, giving the regime the room to really crank up a nuclear program was just too kind.
And as for Iraq, Wallace had it right. The Bush administration left their successor with a terrible mess on his hands. Even the master dealmaker and four time bankrupt real estate mogul Donald Trump himself would have had a hard time extricating himself from that agreement. The Obama administration tried, much to the chagrin of his liberal supporters whose votes were largely based on his promise to get out. But the Bush administration and the Iraqi government had left them with very little to work with short of re-invading and putting the country under occupation.
According to the Cheneys' book, none of that is correct. It's a bizarroworld tour de force in which the Iraq war was a rousing American victory that resulted in the Middle East becoming a stable region where the Sunni and Shia were holding hands and promising to love one another. That is until Barack Obama came along and tore it all asunder with his weak and cowardly refusal to "lead."
But the book isn't just a recapitulation of their lame excuses for having trashed the Middle East and then standing on the sidelines pointing fingers as if they had nothing to do with it. It's a lecture about "American Exceptionalism," the right wing's favorite rationale for American Empire. In other words, a campaign blueprint for the next Republican presidential candidate.
First they complain that the U.S. doesn't take enough credit for always doing the right thing and that we must start teaching our children:
...about the boys of Pointe du Hoc and Doolittle's Raiders, the Battle of Midway and Iwo Jima. They should learn about the courage of the young Americans who fought the Nazis at the Battle of the Bulge and the Japanese on Okinawa. They should learn why America was right to end the war by dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and about the fundamental decency of a nation that established the Truman Doctrine, The Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift and the North Atlantic treaty organization.
No, Americans have not been deprived of any of this historical information. It is as much a part of our myth-making as the Revolutionary War and the Old West. But notice how they slip that one little bit of "exceptional" unpleasantness in the middle of all the guts and glory: the fact that we are the only nation that's ever dropped nuclear bombs on populated cities. To them, there is no controversy on this point, it's patently obvious that our actions are always virtuous, full stop. Therefore, dropping nuclear weapons is no different than the Berlin Airlift and the Marshall Plan. (Let's just say that it is controversial, as it certainly should be.)
Indeed, the thesis of their book is that from WWII until January 20th, 2009, the United States was pretty much perfect. Since then, the president has abandoned our 75 year history of bipartisan awesomeness and the world has gone completely to hell. And the best evidence for this is the pending Iran nuclear deal, which has them apoplectic:
"Nearly everything the president has told us about his Iranian agreement is false. He has said it will prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons, but it will actually facilitate and legitimize an Iranian nuclear arsenal. The Obama agreement will lead to a nuclear-armed Iran, a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East and, more than likely, the first use of a nuclear weapon since Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
Catch that? The people who were just extolling the virtue of the United States for having dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are using the specter of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to criticize a nuclear non-proliferation agreement. The dissonance is overwhelming.
But that is the fundamental essence of Cheney-style American exceptionalism: Do as we say, not as we do. And "might makes right." The book is nothing more than an extended argument for hypocrisy and lack of self-awareness, so as one might imagine, it's full of convenient evasions and dishonest rationalisations about the Bush administration's crimes, perhaps the most repellant being this one:
"We must reinstitute the enhanced interrogation program and stop releasing terrorists from Guantanamo. We need intelligence to win this war and that requires effective interrogation,. There may be instances where intelligence necessary to prevent attacks cannot be obtained using only Army Field Manual techniques."
The fact that the "enhanced interrogation program" didn't actually result in any useful intelligence is no more persuasive to the Cheneys of this world than the fact that it is an immoral, indecent behavior unworthy of any nation that considers itself to be civilized. But then one wouldn't expect anything different coming from a man who infamously insisted that using the ancient form of torture called waterboarding was "a no-brainer." As long as America is doing it, of course. We are the "exception" to the rule of law.
If anyone thinks that Cheney and his fellow travelers learned a thing from the Iraq debacle, think again. As Marcy Wheeler pointed out in Salon last week, Cheney's Iran speech scheduled for today falls on the 13 year anniversary of his and Condoleeza Rice's appearance on the Sunday talk shows to flog the invasion to stop Iraq alleged nuclear program. That day will go down in infamy for the fact that Rice fatuously proclaimed, "We don't want the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud," and Cheney using a New York Times report as evidence, the details of which were leaked to the paper by the administration.
Today, he'll be essentially saying the same thing about Iran, hoping to be the éminence grise advising all the Republican presidential candidates on proper wingnut foreign policy. Since most of them know less than George H.W. Bush's dead dog Millie (or his son George) they are undoubtedly listening. Hey, it worked before, right?
But you have to wonder if Fox News' rather aggressive questioning of Liz and Dick this past week-end might signal a bit of concern among the beltway conservatives about Cheney's potential influence. It's unnerving enough to imagine Trump going all the way. The lethal combination of Dick and The Donald is downright horrifying.