Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney talks about his wife Lynne Cheney's book "James Madison: A Life Reconsidered" on May 12, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee/Getty

Dick Cheney: the man who just won’t go away

If you’re convinced that former Vice President Dick Cheney’s biggest problem is that he’s a shrinking violet, far too shy to express himself, don’t worry. The Wall Street Journal reports this week that Cheney is finally ready to break out of his shell.
Few people noticed the 74-year-old in the tan Stetson at a high-school rodeo here [in Casper, Wyoming]. Dick Cheney was happy to blend in.
That is about to change. The former vice president is looking to make a splash on the national stage with a new book to be published in September and a group he and his daughter Liz launched to advance their views.
The highly flattering WSJ report sketches out an ambitious game plan for Cheney, in which the failed former V.P. intends to influence the 2016 presidential race, shape the debate over nuclear diplomacy with Iran, and complain incessantly about President Obama.
He’s also apparently eager to share words of wisdom like these: “As we got further from 9/11, there was a tendency for a lot of people to say, ‘Let somebody else do it, we’ve done our share.’ Well, that makes no sense at all, if 19 guys with airline tickets and box cutters can take down the World Trade Center and Pentagon.”
I’ve read that quote several times, trying to make sense of it. Unless there was an editing error and whole sentences were accidentally removed, it seems like an obvious non-sequitur.
Regardless, I don’t begrudge Cheney’s desire to “get back in the fray” – he’s a private citizen and he can engage in the political process as much as he wishes – but there are two angles to this that shouldn’t go overlooked.
The first is that he most certainly has already been in the fray. Indeed, he never left – Cheney began publicly condemning President Obama for the speed with which he was cleaning up Cheney’s messes literally just weeks after the shift in power in 2009.
Ever since, Cheney has publicly questioned the president’s patriotism, positioned himself as a key figure on the GOP fundraising circuit, become a policy adviser to congressional Republicans, and repeatedly defended his failed policies and agenda.
The failed former V.P. “is looking to make a splash”? I was under the impression that he already made the splash and we’re still struggling to deal with the wake.
And then there’s the unnerving fact that when it comes to the presidential campaign, Cheney has already largely succeeded in helping push his party to the far-right. Salon’s Simon Maloy explained yesterday:
“We thought, looking forward to 2016, it was very important to make sure those issues were front and center in the campaign,” Cheney told the Journal.
If that’s the goal, well then … Mission Accomplished, I guess. A quick glance at the stump speeches from Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, and other 2016 contenders reveals an already dogged embrace of hawkish foreign policy positions. They all talk about bloating the defense budget to maintain a “strong military,” they root the country’s foreign policy in American exceptionalism, they promise to abandon diplomacy with Iran and be more aggressive toward terrorists in Iraq – all the Cheney must-haves for a foreign policy debate…. What, exactly, is Cheney bringing to the table that isn’t already there?
Nothing, really. If there was a fight for control of the Republican Party’s direction on matters of national security, neocons won quite a while ago.
So why is Cheney bothering? One can only speculate. Maybe he’s bored. Perhaps he sees value in a vanity exercise. Maybe he realizes that much of the nation still sees him as a radical failure and he hopes a new book and revamped political operation can add some elusive luster to his ugly legacy.