A couple days after President Obama announced that he had ordered the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who had become a leading propagandist for Al Qaeda in Yemen, he received congratulations from an unlikely place.
"I think it was a very good strike. I think it was justified," former Vice President Dick Cheney told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.
"I'm waiting for the administration to go back and correct something they said two years ago when they criticized us for 'overreacting' to the events of 9/11," Cheney added.
Cheney's right about one thing: two and a half years after he took office, and with the extrajudicial killings of two wanted terrorists -- al-Awlaki in September, Osama bin Laden in May -- it's increasingly evident that Obama's counterterrorism policies share far more with those of Bush and Cheney than they differ from them.
But it's hard to say who should find this militarized form of counterterrorism more frustrating: the progressives who elected Obama hoping for a new approach to national security, or the Republicans who have lost a convenient punching bag.
Indeed, just two years ago, Cheney was accusing a newly sworn-in Obama of "dismantling" Bush-era counterterrorism policies, and of being "more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist" than protecting Americans. Whoops.
Below, a slideshow of some of the greatest hits from GOP officials back when a reasonable person could still believe Obama was "soft" on terrorism -- beginning, of course, with Dick Cheney.
Dick Cheney spent much of the first months of Obama's term bashing the new president over his presumed approach on terrorism. Here are two of his early critical -- and critically overstated -- attacks: When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry. -- February 2009, Politico We've seen a lot of decisions made, especially in this administration with respect to the War on Terror, which is no longer a War on Terror, it's an overseas contingency operation. This whole question of detainees is extraordinarily important. The terrorist surveillance program is important. We were challenged in very fundamental ways after 9/11. The nation was threatened, we lost 3,000 people that day. The biggest task we had as an administration was to make certain that that never happened again, and do everything we could to prevent those kinds of attacks. We put in place certain policies to do that. The Obama administration campaigned against those policies. And they're now in the process of dismantling some of them. --May 2009, Fox News
Mitt Romney withdrew from the 2008 campaign at the Conservative Political Action Committee's annual convention. In his speech, he said he was leaving the race because he didn't want to delay naming a nominee who could compete with Obama's "defeatist" ideology. Barack and Hillary have made their intentions clear regarding Iraq and the War on Terror. They would retreat and declare defeat. And the consequence of that would be devastating. It would mean attacks on America, launched from safe havens that make Afghanistan under the Taliban look like child's play. About this, I have no doubt. I disagree with Senator McCain on a number of issues, as you know. But I agree with him on doing whatever it takes to be successful in Iraq, on finding and executing Osama bin Laden, and on eliminating Al Qaeda and terror. If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Sen. Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror. --February 2008, CPAC convention
At the end of 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab-- the so-called "underwear bomber" -- attempted to blow up an airliner en route to Detroit with a explosives hidden in his boxer shorts. Newt Gingrich quickly joined the chorus of conservatives who insisted that Obama -- in arresting Abdulmutallab -- had caved to the whims of those who put the rule of law over the rule of fist. (Epilogue: The man who is believed to have inspired and urged on Abdulmutallab's attempted attack was al-Awlaki, the target of last week's drone strike.) In an op-ed in Human Events, Gingrich wrote: America is long overdue for a serious global strategy that includes targeting threats such as the terrorist killer at Fort Hood, the individuals recently arrested in Detroit, Denver and New York, and the five Americans detained in Pakistan. The scale, persistence and sophistication of the enemy requires an honesty, a clarity, and a scale appropriate to the response. Once again, instead of targeting the source of the threats, our politically correct government decides to make life more miserable for the travelling public by imposing hopelessly meaningless rules such as not allowing passengers to leave their seats in the last hour of the flight. Bound by cultural sensitivities, the default reaction of the bureaucracy is to review the procedures and wring its hands ineffectively. Today, because our elites fear politically incorrect honesty, they believe that it is better to harass the innocent, delay the harmless, and risk the lives of every American than to do the obvious, the effective, and the necessary. ...In the Obama Administration, protecting the rights of terrorists has been more important than protecting the lives of Americans. --December 2009, Human Events
The Abdulmutallab plot also offered rising Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) one of her first opportunities to hit out at President Obama for his supposedly weak-kneed approach to terrorism. In a January 2010 edition of the Bachmann bulletin, the congresswoman called on the president to stop giving Miranda rights to terrorism suspects: Last week I called on President Obama to immediately change his approach to this ongoing struggle against terrorism, and never again allow terrorists Miranda Rights. It's simply not enough to apologize for the government's lapse in national security. Instead, the President must stop treating terrorists as criminals as opposed to the enemy combatants they are. How can we honestly believe the President when he says he will not rest until he finds out all who were involved in the attempted Christmas day bombing when we've already given Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab the right to remain silent? We should be using all legal means necessary to push this terrorist to release all his information, not allow him to lawyer up. He should not be afforded the rights of American citizens like you and me. He is a terrorist, and he should be treated like one. Abdulmutallab's actions were an act of war and not akin to breaking and entering. Thus, they must be treated as such. Our law enforcement should be allowed immediate access to any and all combatants for interrogation in the interest of national security. Anything less and the President will continue to put the men and women of this country at risk. There's too much at stake. --January 2010, Bachmann Bulletin
Santorum dipped his toe into the 2012 campaign in early 2010, shortly after the Abdulmutallab episode, with a dig at Obama for treating terrorism "like a petty crime," in a letter to supporters. He wrote, "Our country needs a President who will stand up for our National Security." --January 2010, Letter to supporters of his PAC.
The one-time governor of Alaska made bashing Obama's terrorist "pals" a keystone of her run for the vice presidency. In January 2010, after the Obama administration had detained Abdulmutallab, Palin took to her Facebook page to decry the president's perceived mercy with the wannabe terrorist. President Obama's meeting with his top national security advisers does nothing to change the fact that his fundamental approach to terrorism is fatally flawed. We are at war with radical Islamic extremists and treating this threat as a law enforcement issue is dangerous for our nation's security. That's what happened in the 1990s and we saw the result on Sept. 11, 2001. This is a war on terror not an "overseas contingency operation." Acts of terrorism are just that, not "man caused disasters." The system did not work. Abdulmutallab was a child of privilege radicalized and trained by organized jihadists, not an "isolated extremist" who traveled to a land of "crushing poverty." He is an enemy of the United States, not just another criminal defendant. ...President Obama was right to change his policy and decide to send no more detainees to Yemen where they can be free to rejoin their war on America. Now he must back off his reckless plan to close Guantanamo, begin treating terrorists as wartime enemies not suspects alleged to have committed crimes, and recognize that the real nature of the terrorist threat requires a commander-in-chief, not a constitutional law professor. --January 2010, Facebook
In the 2008 presidential campaign, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani embodied the hardline tack on national security. One year after Obama took office, he found cause for alarm at the president's determination to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the chief architect of the 9/11 attacks, in a criminal court in New York: Trying Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in the city also would wrongfully force Americans to pay for his security, both in court and in holding while awaiting trial....What the Obama administration is telling us loud and clear is that both in substance and reality the war on terror from their point of view is over....This seems to be an overconcern with the rights of terrorists and a lack of concern for the rights of the public. --November 2009, "Fox News Sunday"