The cycle has become rather tiresome: Dick Cheney pops up, talks about how much he hates President Obama, makes a few headlines, waits a few days, and then starts the cycle anew. It stopped being interesting quite a while ago.
That said, the failed former vice president has become a little more unhinged than usual lately, and this morning he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that the president is “about to give [Iran] nuclear weapons.”
“I vacillate between the various theories I’ve heard, but you know, if 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,” Cheney said when asked whether he thought the president is naive or something else.
This is obviously the kind of rant an adult should find hard to take seriously. Cheney, whose perpetual whining for the last several years has had all the sophistication of the typical Twitter troll, is effectively attacking the president’s patriotism. His argument is that if there was an anti-American traitor in the White House, that turncoat’s agenda would be indistinguishable from Obama’s agenda.
In other words, Cheney sees Obama as some kind of Manchurian Candidate who’s trying to hurt us and help America’s foes on purpose.
I can appreciate why Cheney might feel a little embarrassed right now. Obama has spent the last six years cleaning up his predecessors’ messes, and he’s had quite a bit of success, which very likely makes the failed former V.P. uncomfortable. In this light, Cheney’s near-constant complaints are a little childish – it’s as if Cheney’s feeling self-conscious about the fact that Obama’s fixing what Cheney broke, and this leads him to lash out irrationally.
But if we go a bit further down this road, Cheney’s argument stops being silly and slowly becomes ironic.
From Cheney’s perspective, Obama’s not naive. Rather, Cheney suggests that Obama actually wants Iran to have nuclear weapons, despite the fact that Obama has taken so many steps to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons. But as Jon Chait noted, this leads to some awkward questions for the Republican leader himself.
[W]hat if we apply Cheney’s analytic method to his own administration’s Iran policy? After all, it was under the Bush administration that the Iranian nuclear program flourished, bringing the regime from 164 to 8,000 centrifuges. […]What’s more, the expansion of Iran’s power under Bush was not limited to the blossoming if its nuclear program. In 2003, an extremely hostile neighboring regime (that had launched a war against it two decades before) was deposed, creating a power vacuum that Iran filled. Cheney seems to have played a role there. A Cheney-style analysis of the Bush administration’s Iran policy would conclude that it was carrying out a deliberate plan to elevate Iran’s standing.
Chait might even be understating the case. He failed to note that it was under Bush/Cheney that North Korea also acquired nuclear weapons, a development that the Republican White House largely ignored.
What’s more, in 2004, Paul Krugman wrote a memorable column in which the columnist effectively made the argument Cheney presents today, but in reverse – Krugman imagined George W. Bush as the “Arabian Candidate,” adopting an agenda that deliberately advanced the cause of Middle Eastern radicals, alienated American allies, and undermined our standing and credibility on the international stage,
In reality, of course, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney may disagree on what’s best for the United States, but they all want what’s best for the country. For Cheney to suggest otherwise is simply bonkers, and further evidence of the former vice president’s sad descent into shameful ignominy.
It was Cheney’s policy that greatly expanded Iran’s power and influence in the region. It was Cheney’s policy that allowed Iran to advance its nuclear-weapons program without consequence.
If he wants to apologize for his failures, I suspect Obama would be gracious about it.