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The Other Cheney

Former Vice President Dick Cheney in a speech on Wednesday blasted the Obama administration for “dithering while America’s armed forces are in danger.” And for good measure he blew the whistle on the Obami who claimed they had to start war-planning from scratch. Cheney said not true:

“They asked us not to announce our findings publicly, and we agreed, giving them the benefit of our work and the benefit of the doubt,” Cheney said in prepared remarks.

Cheney’s comments contradicted a claim by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that the Obama administration had to form an Afghan war strategy from scratch because the Bush administration hadn’t asked any key questions about the war and left it “adrift.”

(This account is confirmed by Karl Rove here.)

Cheney in forceful terms summed up the criticism coming from the Right, but also from some increasingly frustrated Democrats:

“They made a decision — a good one, I think — and sent a commander into the field to implement it,” Cheney said, referring to McChrystal, who was chosen in May by Obama to lead the fight in Afghanistan.

“Now they seem to be pulling back and blaming others for their failure to implement the strategy they embraced,” he said. “It’s time for President Obama to do what it takes to win a war he has repeatedly and rightly called a war of necessity.” …

“Make no mistake, signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries,” he added. “Waffling, while our troops on the ground face an emboldened enemy, endangers them and hurts our cause.”

Cheney also launched a broadside against the Obama administration’s “hounding” of intelligence employees and assailing of interrogation measures that prevented attacks on Americans.

Cheney showed in the Guantanamo debate that the president’s popularity (much reduced since then) is no substitute for cogent argument and smart policies. The White House once again will no doubt snarl in response, as they are wont to do in lieu of reasoned rebuttal. (And what would they say? ” We are not dithering!”) But Cheney’s point is the central one for the American people and for elected leaders: just how do Obama’s policies (e.g., reinvestigation of CIA operatives, release of interrogation memos and halt to enhanced interrogation techniques, delay on formulating an Afghanistan policy) improve America’s safety? Unless the president can provide a concrete answer, he remains vulnerable. More important, so does America.


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