Opinion: Cranky Cheney at it again

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Before the first year of his term has elapsed, a U.S. president is taken by surprise when a terrorist targets an airliner. Barack Obama? Yes, but also George W. Bush. And the actuality of 9/11 was more catastrophic than the botched attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a Detroit-bound plane.

One would think that history would induce officials of the Bush administration -- especially ex-Vice President Dick Cheney, who was supposed to be Bush’s tutor on national security -- to refrain from cheap shots about the latest terrorist scare. One would be wrong. Cheney rushed to link the failure to identify Abdulmutallab as dangerous to the president’s supposed softness on terror.


‘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,’ Cheney told Politico. ‘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.’

The White House responded that Obama was aware that we are at war with Al Qaeda and similar groups, but that he ‘doesn’t need to beat his chest to prove it.’ The response was a bit glib. Obama’s initial reaction was low-key, and at least one of his officials -- hapless Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano -- did once try to rechristen acts of terror as ‘man-caused disasters.’

But it’s what Obama says that matters, and he’s made it clear in word (his Nobel acceptance speech) and deed (his increase in troop levels in Afghanistan) that the country is at war. So why the tongue-lashing from Cheney, who must know better? Hurt feelings about Obama’s criticism of the Bush administration? A senior moment? The Obama administration has the most plausible explanation: Cheney’s rant was part of ‘the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay.’

For a snark-heavy compilation of Cheney bons mots from 2009, go to Gawker and check out “A Treasury of Terrifying Hyperbole by Dick Cheney.” Warning: Not suitable for those with no appetite for the kind of obscenity Cheney famously uttered on the Senate floor.

-- Michael McGough

Associated Press