A large segment of the Republican Party is rallying behind former Vice President Dick Cheney as its champion on matters of defense and national security. They look to him and increasingly to his daughter Liz as their spokesmen in defense of torture, in support of military solutions to problems such as Iran and North Korea, and overall as advocates of a much more aggressive, unilateral approach than that taken by President Obama.
Yet the Cheney fans seem to forget that by the second Bush term, even President Bush had largely stopped listening to the crazy man whispering in his ear. The Bush White House ordered a halt to “enhanced interrogation techniques” that Cheney defends as necessary even today. Over Cheney’s protests, Bush forced Donald Rumsfeld to resign as secretary of defense, replacing him with the more level-headed Robert Gates, who remains SecDef under Obama. Under Gates and newly appointed Secretary of State Condi Rice, the Bush administration in its second term took a less confrontational and arrogant approach to advancing U.S. interests overseas, leaving Cheney sitting on the sidelines and muttering to himself in frustration.
Cheney himself has more or less acknowledged that trajectory, suggesting that in his upcoming book he will outline where he believes Bush went wrong in his second term. He confirmed another important aspect of the narrative over the weekend in an interview on Fox. As the Wall Street Journal describes it:
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Dick Cheney hinted that, in the waning days of the Bush administration, he had pushed for a military strike to destroy Iran’s nuclear-weapons program.
“I was probably a bigger advocate of military action than any of my colleagues,” Dick Cheney said, regarding Iran and its nuclear ambitions.
In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Mr. Cheney described himself as being isolated among advisers to then-President George W. Bush, who ultimately decided against direct military action.”
Cheney’s viewpoint on the efficacy of military action against Iran was rejected not just by Rice, Gates and ultimately by Bush, but also by most of the generals and admirals at the Pentagon. They would be the ones forced to deal with the consequences of cowboyism, and they wanted no part of it. An attack on Iran in the waning days of the Bush administration also would have coincided with and compounded the economic collapse that occurred in the same time frame, with global ramifications we can only imagine.
The former vice president, in other words, is a nut, and history will show that his colleagues in the Bush administration eventually came to realize it and isolate him for that reason. The fact that Cheney still has an audience and a following despite that record might seem strange until you realize that hey, so does Glenn Beck.