Commentary Magazine


How Right Was Cheney? Very

All year former Vice President Dick Cheney has been bird-dogging the president on his anti-terrorism policies. From the get-go, Cheney has charged Obama with foolishly abandoning the policies that worked to keep America safe and reverting to a pre- 9/11 mentality. He made that argument once again today:

As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low-key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of Sept. 11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won’t be at war.

He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al-Qaeda-trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gets rid of the words, ‘war on terror,’ we won’t be at war. But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe. Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency — social transformation — the restructuring of American society. President Obama’s first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war.

Liberals have sneered that Cheney was exaggerating or misreading the Obami’s approach to terrorism. But at each turn — the plan to close Guantanamo and send detainees to places like Yemen, the release of the enhanced interrogation memos (but only selectively), and the decisions to cease enhanced interrogation techniques and give KSM a civilian trial — the Obama team has in effect proved Cheney’s point.

What about the voters? The public has consistently registered disapproval of Obama’s approach. Like Cheney, they don’t want the CIA investigated and would prefer we use necessary interrogation techniques to save lives. They don’t think it’s a good idea to give KSM a forum to spew his jihadist propaganda and obtain access to classified materials. However, the voters have lacked a concrete example to demonstrate the consequences of the Obami’s approach. Now they see where it leads — a laconic response from the president, a terrorist sitting mute in jail rather than spilling what he knows to interrogators, and dogged determination by the administration to avoid labeling these attacks as part of a worldwide war waged by Islamic terrorists.

Say what you will but Cheney has made his point — or Obama has made it for him. And the voters will decide whether “not Bush” is really such a smart approach to keeping them safe.