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Cheney, Rogers show how not to defend NSA surveillance

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, saying exactly what you'd expect Cheney to say on "Fox News Sunday." For example, asked
Cheney, Rogers show how not to defend NSA surveillance
Cheney, Rogers show how not to defend NSA surveillance

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, saying exactly what you'd expect Cheney to say on "Fox News Sunday." For example, asked about Americans' right to know about their government's surveillance efforts, the former V.P. argued, "Well, they get to vote for senior officials, like the president of the United States, or like the senior officials in Congress, and you have to have some trust in them."

In other words, we should just give the government vast spying powers, and then hope all goes well. How very Cheney-esque of him.

But there was something else he said that caught my eye. When Chris Wallace asked about President Obama, Cheney had a specific condemnation in mind.

"I don't pay a lot of attention, frankly, to what Barack Obama says. I find a lot of it in other areas -- for example, IRS, Benghazi -- not credible. I'm obviously not a fan of the incumbent president. [...]"In terms of credibility, I don't think he has credibility... And the problem is the guy has failed to be forthright and honest and credible on things like Benghazi and the IRS. So he's got no credibility."

Yes, Dick Cheney -- Dick Cheney! -- wants to talk about the importance of credibility among elected leaders. In case we needed further evidence that irony is dead, the former V.P. seemed happy to oblige.

But more important is the substantive argument here: Obama was dishonest about Benghazi and the IRS, so there's no reason for Americans, or anyone else, to trust his word on anything. On CBS's "Face the Nation," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) echoed the same talking point.

SCHIEFFER: We want to go back to the house intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers. We were talking about this big story about has the National Security Agency over-reached? What is your take, Mr. Chairman? Do you think the government's done anything wrong here at this point?ROGERS: Well, it depends again what you're talking about when you're talking about the IRS scandal or Benghazi, I think there were certainly government misdeeds and maybe even criminal behavior.

Cheney and Rogers were presumably invited onto the Sunday shows to talk about the NSA controversy, but both support the administration's surveillance programs. So, what happens? Both decide they want to talk instead about Benghazi and the IRS.

There is, of course, one obvious problem: President Obama didn't do anything wrong when it comes to Benghazi and the IRS.

I imagine it's a point of crushing disappointment, but last September's attack on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi is not a political scandal. Literally every partisan attack and unhinged conspiracy theory Republicans have come up with has been debunked, discredited, and dismissed as nonsense. The violence that left four Americans dead has been the subject of multiple investigations and hearings, and there's absolutely nothing to suggest the president or the White House did anything wrong at all.

As a result, when Dick Cheney and Mike Rogers insist on national television that Obama lacks credibility because of Benghazi, they're either deliberately trying to mislead the country or they haven't the foggiest idea what they're talking about.

Similarly, with each passing day, it becomes more difficult to take the IRS matter seriously. The entire controversy has unraveled in recent weeks, and Republican efforts to connect the story to the White House have proven to be absurd.

So what are Cheney and Rogers talking about?

If prominent Republican voices want to defend NSA surveillance, fine. If they want to express their contempt for the president, that's their right. But these shameless efforts to breathe life into non-existent controversies is silly and unproductive. Indeed, though the Sunday show hosts didn't think to ask the obvious follow-up questions, the challenge for Cheney and Rogers is pretty straightforward: can they identify literally anything Obama said on Benghazi and/or the IRS matter that wasn't entirely accurate?