Jon Meacham's Cheney 2012 Proposal: Pretending To Care About 'Adjudicating' The Bush Years

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Wow. So while I was out and about enjoying life outside the Beltway for Thanksgiving, the entire world was captivated by Tiger Woods, a pair of reality-show fameball wannabes who made it into the White House's schmancy dinner and a Jon Meacham column touting former Vice President Dick Cheney as the GOP nominee for 2012. I'm deeply resolved to not writing a blessed word on the first two topics, so let's dispense with Meacham's new modest proposal, which is a stupid idea dressed up as something clever.

I suppose that I should purchase and attempt to drink my first-ever latte, for the sake of viscerally experiencing Meacham's vision. He says that his argument that a Cheney run "would be good for the Republicans and good for the country" will force me to endure some heavy-duty expectoration. But really, most of the spittle on my laptop screen comes courtesy of Newsweek. Meacham's argument basically boils down to this:

1. Cheney is a "man of conviction."
2. "Conviction" seems to mean being a tidy amalgam of "Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and Haley Barbour."
3. "A campaign would also give us an occasion that history denied us in 2008: an opportunity to adjudicate the George W. Bush years in a direct way."

And... I'm going to stop Jon Meacham right there. Regardless of whether a Cheney run "would be good for the Republicans and good for the country," it's pretty clear that a Cheney run would not be good for Dick Cheney.

If you've watched Cheney in retirement, it's pretty clear that he likes being in his current position: he gets to stand in as the avatar of one side of a "great debate" in foreign policy, without having to be accountable for his suggestions, as President Obama does. Cheney's basic post-election campaign has been to seek as much credit for "keeping America safe" without having to accept any responsibility for the means by which he sought to do so.

And, much to its discredit, the Obama administration has resolved to do as little "adjudicating" of "the George W. Bush years" as it possibly can. But if the two men end up locked in electoral battle, that will change. If Cheney wants to get a faceful of political buckshot, cast out of the remains of the Bush administration, then he should definitely run for president.

Of course, the rivetingly dumb thing about this whole proposal is Meacham telling the world that he'll be lying in wait for Cheney a few years from now, to call him out on matters that will be almost a decade old by the time we're geared up for another presidential election season. If "history" truly "denied... an opportunity to adjudicate the George W. Bush years in a direct way," then why is Meacham waiting until 2011 to get cracking with that adjudication? Last time I checked, he was the editor of a widely-read news magazine, in charge of a stable of reporters and researchers. He could get started on that direct adjudication right now! Or is there some sort of statute of limitations that has to run out before Meacham feels like he's in the clear to finally get tough with Dick Cheney?

And really, what sort of Cheney critic is Meacham likely to be? Let's cast our minds back to January of this year, and peep this terrifyingly brave take on "the George W. Bush years":

That said, to rehash the case against Cheney at this late hour in the life of the Bush administration would be the rough equivalent of pornography--briefly engaging, perhaps, but utterly predictable and finally repetitive. As Stuart Taylor Jr. and Evan Thomas explore in this week's cover, the urgent question now is whether President Obama will hew to that dogma or whether, confronted with the realities of office, he will begin to see virtue in the antiterror apparatus Cheney helped Bush create.

This looks to me like a guy who's got very little interest in prosecuting the Bush/Cheney White House for diddly. And it's been demonstrated that Obama has, with a few glancing exceptions, seen the virtue of "the antiterror apparatus Cheney helped Bush create." So, I'm sort of wondering how Meacham arrived at the conclusion that a Cheney-Obama election matchup would result in "a bracing referendum on competing visions."

At any rate, all the people who correctly called this Meacham editorial a sad and desperate grab for page views and attention from ol' Matt Drudge have it precisely correct. I certainly wouldn't read this column as the honest evocation of a desire to cast a critical eye at the previous administration. To borrow a phrase, you can write off Meacham's passing fancy as something that's briefly engaging, perhaps, but utterly predictable and finally repetitive.

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