The underlying challenge for the failed former V.P. is the degree to which his own Iran policy failed spectacularly. Iran didn’t have a meaningful nuclear weapons program until Tehran developed one -- during the Bush/Cheney administration
. At the time, in response to Iran's nuclear program, the Bush/Cheney administration did nothing -- except, of course, strengthen Iran's regional power by invading Iraq.
With this in mind, Fox News' Chris Wallace reminded Cheney over the weekend that Iran "went from zero known [nuclear] centrifuges in operation to more than 5,000.” The Republican's response
The Fox News host flashed that data on screen so no one could miss it, and added: “So in fairness, didn’t you leave -- the Bush-Cheney administration -- leave President Obama with a mess?” “Well, I don’t think of it that way,” Cheney countered. [...] “But the centrifuges went from zero to 5,000,” Wallace pressed. “Well, they may well have gone but that happened on Obama’s watch, not on our watch,” Cheney replied.
That's the exact opposite of the truth, as Wallace, to his credit, quickly reminded the former V.P. Iran's nuclear program blossomed, not under President Obama, but during the Bush/Cheney era.
Cheney wants Americans to blame Obama for a mess Cheney created. Indeed, either Cheney doesn't know what happened in Iran on his watch, in which case his ignorance effectively disqualifies him from the debate, or Cheney simply doesn't care about the facts, which renders his misguided opinions meaningless.
I'm afraid there is no third option.
It remains unclear whether Cheney is ignorant or dishonest, but either course leads to an unsettling direction. When it was the far-right former V.P. helping guide the nation's foreign policy, Iran benefited tremendously. New York
's Jon Chait recently explained
Bush and Cheney may have rhetorically opposed the Iranian nuclear program. In reality, they allowed it to blossom. As Marc Champion explained several months ago, “at the start of Bush's presidency, Iran had no operational centrifuge cascades and no stocks of enriched fuel, so it had no means of making a nuclear weapon.” Then things got bad: "By the time Bush left office in January 2009, Iran had just under 4,000 working centrifuges and an additional 1,600 installed. These had, to that point, produced 171 kilos of low-enriched uranium. Oh, and Iran had covertly built a new enrichment facility under a mountain at Qom." Measured by results, rather than sound bites, Cheney was the greatest thing that happened to the radical regime in Iran since it took power.
Given all of these inconvenient facts, perhaps it's not too surprising that Cheney would repeat demonstrably ridiculous talking points on national television. If I were Cheney, I'd feel humiliated by the truth, too.
But if the former vice president wants to play a role in the drama surrounding Iran, he's too late -- we already have enough jesters, and Cheney isn't qualified for any other role.