Dick Cheney certainly isn't spending the first year of his retirement from the vice presidency growing a beard. Instead, he's playing a very clever game, exemplified by his latest "exclusive" screed released in written form to the apparently compliant folks at Politico.com.
In it, as is well known by now, he uses the case of the failed Detroit underpants bomb attempt to accuse President Obama of "pretending that the United States is not at war," thereby making us less safe. He can engage in this kind of rhetoric safe in two comforting assumptions: that the Republican base, and a certain percentage of independents, will eat this stuff up, and that the Democrats, in and out of power, will continue to not know how to respond.
The latter is because they, willingly or not, allowed themselves to be co-opted into the "war on terror" model in the first place, out of fear of being depicted as "soft" if they so much as emitted a peep of opposition. What should they be saying?
How's this: Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush, made the country less safe for eight years by pretending that this country was at war, thereby wasting vast amounts of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, while failing to achieve the basic aims of the enterprise. The problem with pretending we're at war, rather than understanding we're dealing with a criminal syndicate -- like the Mafia -- is that it gets our resources overextended and tied down in geographical areas, like Afghanistan, while the opponent is free to move and relocate (hello, Yemen!, hi, Somalia!). In fact, the war model weakens us, makes us less able to respond nimbly and quietly -- check the recent stories on the logistical challenges facing the Afghanistan surge here, here, here and here. In short, we lumber, they scamper.
But Obama can't say any of this, having just signed on to the AfPak surge. Nor can he bring himself to John Wayne it up, GWB-style. Therefore, he's always open to Cheney's attacks, and his response is always a stoic silence. What, then, would discourage Cheney from keeping it up, straight through next November?
Follow Harry Shearer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/theharryshearer