Former Vice President Dick Cheney boards an elevator at the U.S. Capitol.
Photo by Philip Scott Andrews/New York Times/Getty

Dick Cheney reflects on ‘moral equivalence’

President Obama delivered a forceful address to the United Nations yesterday, presenting an American blueprint for counter-terrorism in the Middle East. Soon after, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a fairly ambitious anti-terrorism resolution.
 
The reaction to the president’s remarks from much of the political world was slightly unexpected. For many observers, if not most, Obama sounded a bit like his predecessor when discussing the terrorist threat. The president talked about the “language of force,” the futility of “negotiation” with radicals, and his commitment to dismantling a “network of death.” What’s more, the principle of American exceptionalism permeated Obama’s remarks.
 
It sounded quite a bit like the sort of speech Republicans would find compelling. And yet, Dick Cheney’s still outraged.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday that he was “stunned” President Obama mentioned last month’s police shooting in Ferguson, Mo. in the same breath as the conflict in the Middle East during his United Nations speech.
 
“I was stunned,” Cheney told Fox News’ Sean Hannity…. Cheney thought Obama was falsely comparing the United States’ racial tensions with the struggle to combat extremism in the Middle East. “I mean, to compare the two as though somehow there is moral equivalence there is I think outrageous,” he told Hannity.
In reality, what’s “outrageous” is Cheney’s twisted interpretation of unambiguous remarks.
 
I was inclined to simply ignore the failed former vice president’s latest complaining, but since this line of attack has gained traction in conservative media, and since you’ll probably receive an email about it from your crazy uncle who watches Fox News all day, let’s go ahead and note why Cheney’s whining is wrong.
 
This is actually an easy one. Just look at the speech.
“I realize that America’s critics will be quick to point out that at times we too have failed to live up to our ideals; that America has plenty of problems within our own borders. This is true. In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri – where a young man was killed, and a community was divided. So yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions. And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear.
 
“But we welcome the scrutiny of the world – because what you see in America is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems and make our union more perfect. America is not the same as it was 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even a decade ago. Because we fight for our ideals, and are willing to criticize ourselves when we fall short. Because we hold our leaders accountable, and insist on a free press and independent judiciary.  Because we address our differences in the open space of democracy – with respect for the rule of law; with a place for people of every race and religion; and with an unyielding belief in the ability of individual men and women to change their communities and countries for the better.
 
“After nearly six years as President, I believe that this promise can help light the world.”
No sane person could hear this and think Obama was drawing a “moral equivalence” between Islamic State terrorists and the events in Ferguson. The president was citing an example of the kind of societal challenge we overcome as part of our perseverance and ability to right wrongs.
 
Ed Kilgore called Cheney’s claim “perhaps the most willfully stupid thing I’ve heard in years.”
 
Something to keep in mind when your uncle’s email arrives.
 

Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, Ferguson, ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and United Nations

Dick Cheney reflects on 'moral equivalence'