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Two for the road

Dick Cheney and Fidel Castro may not have a lot in common, but they share this: too much time on their hands. Rather than gracefully exit the world stage after a long run, they have decided they are indispensable defenders of the faith -- albeit different faiths, of course.

For eight years, we could get scarcely a word out of Vice President Cheney as he governed in the shadow of President George W. Bush. Now there’s no escaping him on Fox, CNN and CBS’ “Face the Nation,” where he explained this week that if he didn’t defend the Bush record, “then there isn’t anybody there ... to tell the truth.” Really? Not in the whole country?

Cheney has been fear-mongering, repeatedly warning that President Obama’s policies put the United States at risk while insisting that torture works. Or, as he put it, that “enhanced interrogation techniques” yielded information that saved American lives. Besides, he added, “this was a presidential-level decision. ... He signed off on it.” So if you don’t like it, blame Bush.

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As to the future of his defeated Republican Party, Cheney sided with conservative critic Rush Limbaugh and attacked one of the more popular GOP members, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, for having voted for Obama. “I didn’t know he was still a Republican,” Cheney said. “I assumed that was some indication of his loyalty.” That doesn’t sound like a winning strategy for appealing to moderates.

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro, meanwhile, has become a columnist, to the apparent detriment of his brother and successor, Raul. Last month, after Raul Castro extended a hand to Obama by offering to discuss “human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners, everything,” big brother quickly tamped down expectations. He wrote in a “Reflections of Fidel” column that Obama had “misinterpreted” Raul, who simply meant he was not afraid of “addressing” any issue. We read that to mean: Don’t confuse talk with action. This week, he stepped on his brother’s efforts to improve relations with Mexico, charging that President Felipe Calderon had delayed telling the world of the swine flu outbreak until after Obama’s visit. As for a case of swine flu diagnosed in Cuba, he wrote, “the CIA did not introduce it. It came from Mexico.”

We believe there is virtue in stepping aside. Mr. Cheney, the Republicans lost. Give the new administration a little breathing room, as per tradition -- write your book, maybe take up a cause. Mr. Castro, Cubans didn’t have an opportunity to vote you out of office, but half a century is enough. Your brother is the president now; give him a chance. And to both of you: Don’t you want to spend more time with the family?


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