Dick Cheney: Attack-dog-in-chief

When he was vice president and often holed up in an "undisclosed secure location," Dick Cheney was all but invisible. Now that he’s out of office, he seems unavoidable.

While former President Bush has remained silent back in Texas, Cheney, in selected interviews, has been almost incendiary. Democrats are delighted because he’s unpopular generally — approval ratings around 30 percent — and a divisive figure within the Republican Party, which seems too cowed to rein him in.

Asked over the weekend about the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh and Colin Powell, Cheney said, "If I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I’d go with Rush Limbaugh." A curious choice between a radio host whose most celebrated remark this year is that he is rooting for President Obama to fail and a decorated veteran who served as secretary of State and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — with Dick Cheney. And then he added that he didn’t know Powell was still a Republican.

Some believe it is inappropriate, certainly un-statesmanlike, for the former vice president to speak out forcefully so soon after leaving office, but he has every right to and, given his lack of political ambition and the fact that he is financially secure, there is no reason to think that he is motivated by anything other than that he deeply believes in what he is saying.

And Cheney seems to believe that if he doesn’t stand up for his administration, no one else will. Absent him "the critics have free run, and there isn’t anybody there on the other side to tell the truth," which is a little sad when you think about it.

Perhaps most controversially, he has accused Obama of making the country less safe by backing off certain Bush administration policies, especially harsh interrogation techniques. A respectable body of opinion holds that other, legal techniques work as well if not better. Cheney says that, among other methods, waterboarding works and that there are memos to prove it. One day we shall find out.

He argues that those policies kept the country safe for eight years. The country was also safe for the eight years before 9/11. We are safe until we are not safe. Cheney believes it is certain that we will be attacked again. He’s probably right because, like the robed and bearded figure of the cartoons with the sign saying the end is near, if we wait long enough it could come true.

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