Monday, November 30 , 2015, 1:52 am | Fair 44º

Joe Conason: Why Dick Cheney Disdains the ‘Second-Rate’ Obama Team

By Joe Conason |

No doubt President Barack Obama was deeply stung over the weekend to hear Dick Cheney criticize his new national security team. At a Wyoming Republican Party dinner, the former vice president briskly dismissed Obama’s choices as “dismal,” saying America needs “good people” rather than the “second-rate” figures selected by the president, particularly Vietnam veteran and longtime U.S. senator Chuck Hagel, nominated by the president as secretary of defense.

For sage advice on security policy and personnel, after all, there is no living person whose approval could be more meaningful than Cheney. It is hard to imagine a record as profoundly impressive as that of the Bush-Cheney administration, back when everyone knew that he was really in charge of everything important — especially the war on terrorism, the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.

True, Cheney’s intelligence apparatus failed to capture or kill Osama bin Laden after 9/11 — indeed, failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks, despite ample warnings that began with President Bill Clinton’s farewell message in January 2001 and culminated in a blaring President’s Daily Brief from the CIA in August 2001.

True, Cheney’s defense command allowed bin Laden and Mullah Omar to escape following the invasion of Afghanistan, while American and NATO troops slogged through that deadly conflict without a plausible goal or even an exit strategy. And true, the national security cabinet run by Cheney misled the nation into war against Iraq, on false premises, without adequate preparation or clear objectives, at a cost of many thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. And true, too, the ultimate result was to embarrass the United States repeatedly while increasing the regional power of the mullahs in Iran.

How can Obama presume to compare his own record with all of that?

Obviously Cheney’s success cannot be measured by achievement alone. That wouldn’t be fair at all. No, his success resides in the capacity to commit disastrous misconduct and malfeasance in office and still be taken seriously by the serious people in Washington, D.C.

If only the president were sensible enough to appoint figures of the same caliber as Cheney’s choices in the Bush years — men such as Donald Rumsfeld, whose capacity to deceive the public remains unequaled a full decade after he first declared utter certainty about the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein’s huge, perilous cache of “weapons of mass destruction.”

“We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat,” Rummy explained somewhat inanely. He also assured us that the Iraqi people would warmly welcome U.S. troops, that the war would require a commitment of no more than six months and that we wouldn’t need to send an overwhelming force of troops to prevail.

Like his old comrade and boss Cheney, Rumsfeld remained perfectly arrogant and absolutely rigid to the end and beyond, even as all his predictions and promises proved tragically hollow. Even when he came under attack by the neoconservative propaganda apparatus, led by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, for “glibly passing the buck” for administration failures, Rumsfeld never admitted any fault or responsibility. Leaving office in disgrace, he spent years composing a farrago of falsehoods to be published between hard covers, seeking to justify his reign of error — and topped the bestseller lists following a triumphant tour of television and radio.

Now there was a first-rate defense secretary. President Obama, please take note.

Joe Conason is editor in chief of Click here to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @JConason, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

comments powered by Disqus

» on 02.14.13 @ 07:56 AM

“I’m surprised Cheney loves to hunt so much. The five times the government tried to give him a gun , he got deferments.”

» on 02.14.13 @ 09:50 AM

Joe, it’s easy to look back with hindsight.  Obama has made and will make plenty of mistakes for Monday morning quarterbacks to criticize.  No doubt someone like you will find just as much fault to write about once Obama is out of office.  Being President, or serving a President, is an extremely difficult task.  People in those position know a lot more than we do about what is going on, since they have access to all kinds of intelligence.  They are reacting in real-time to this barrage of information and have a lot better chance of making the right decision than most of us.  It’s easy to criticize their record after the fact, as you have here, once the outcome is known, and more information is available.  Obama will make mistakes, just as all Presidents do.  One need only look at Benghazi for a start.  Of course, since you are clearly a supporter, you will color everything Obama does with a positive spin, just as Republicans do for Bush today.  It would be refreshing if those in the press would at least attempt to have some objectivity for a change.

» on 02.14.13 @ 11:47 AM

What would be really nice, Craig, is if Cheney had the good sense and professionalism to keep his fat mouth shut.

» on 02.14.13 @ 12:14 PM

Thanks Joe, I agree.  The only thing Cheney doesn’t disdain is more military spending.  I wonder what his cut is for every drone?  He doesn’t seem to have any problem with those.

» on 02.14.13 @ 01:47 PM

The only thing that I can point to as one of Cheney’s achievements is 8 Trillion of the deficit charged to the American people for the Iraq-Afganistan wars.

Of course, he and his family have done really well getting their share of the revenue from the Halliburton cut.

You should be ashamed of this article’s bias and content. You are a really good writer, find a different niche.

» on 02.14.13 @ 04:05 PM

Cheney is nothing more than a blood-dark stain on American history.

» on 02.14.13 @ 04:27 PM

The left thinks they know more than anyone else, so they were much smarter than Bush and when Obama sends a drone into Pakistan the left knows way better than that too. About the only thing the left doesn’t know is what ignorant, arrogant, intellectual narcissist they are.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.