Former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared before a fawning crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this week to promote his efforts to create an alternative universe in which truths about terrorism becomes lies and lies become truth. His daughter Liz also served as surrogate mouth piece.
With daddy hanging on her shoulder, nodding approval, Liz had the following to say about the Christmas underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab: "There's no polite way to put this, but that kind of incompetence gets people killed." Forgetting 9/11, she actually had the audacity to accuse the Obama administration of missing warnings from the intelligence community that an attack by Yemeni terrorists was imminent. In her haze of amnesia, she went on to decry the "incompetence, misjudgment and presidential neglect" and that, "There is no doubt that the daily intelligence briefings that the president receives contained much more information on the threat from Yemen."
Let us remind Liz of the damning memo sitting on the desk of Condy Rice and in her father's in-box one full month before the attacks of September 11, 2001. On August 6, 2001, the Presidential Daily Brief had the following title: "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." The intelligence briefing stated that the FBI had detected "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings." More to the point the document expressed concern that al Qaeda had been "considering ways to hijack American planes" to use as weapons to fly into buildings. The President and Vice President were told that "Bin Ladin was planning to exploit the operative's access to the US to mount a terrorist strike." In May 2001, an intelligence report noted that al Qaeda was attempting to send operatives into the United States to carry out an attack using explosives. To take Liz's own words, "there is no doubt that the daily intelligence briefings that the president receives contained much more information on the threat" from al Qaeda.
So yes, Liz, you are right, we do need to be deeply concerned about the "incompetence, misjudgment and presidential neglect" as you note, but you have the wrong president. The problem is Bush/Cheney, not Obama/Biden. We now know that Cheney and Bush ignored explicit and repeated warnings about al Qaeda attacks, including the use of hijacked airplanes. There is no polite way to put this, but we sadly know that this kind of incompetence gets people killed, as the grieving families of the 3000 lost in the World Trade Center attacks will attest. That blood is on Cheney's hand, and no amount of spinning and rewriting history will cleanse that stain.
In one of the oddest developments in our history, after the September attack voters and the media meekly accepted the bizarre idea that somehow Bush and Cheney were free of responsibility pre-9/11. That claim is ridiculous and deeply offensive to any thinking person. The notion that somehow Cheney is not guilty of neglect prior to 9/11 is nothing but another sick attempt to rewrite history with smoke and mirrors. September 11 happened on Cheney's watch, and he had plenty of intelligence to warn of the event. That is simply an undeniable fact. Neglect, mismanagement and the fog of arrogance allowed the plot to succeed. Cheney's attempt to divert attention from his misdeeds and incompetence by attacking Obama is disgusting. No matter how many times they repeat otherwise Cheney and Bush are fully and completely responsible for allowing the 9/11 attack to take place.
Cheney's assault on Obama is even more disingenuous given the incident with Richard Reid, who tried to blow up an airplane with his shoe bomb just a few months after 9/11. Bush and Cheney had clamped down hard, steamrolling over civil rights, and instituting new security measures, but that did not prevent a terrorist from walking onto a plane with a bomb on their watch. The incident spotlighted a gaping hole in homeland security even after Bush and Cheney could no longer use the nauseating "pre-9/11" as an excuse for gross incompetence.
Cheney views Obama as weak because Obama expects to act within the constraints of the Constitution he is sworn to uphold. Obama is weak because he believes in the vision put forth by our Founding Fathers by giving those arrested the rights others before us sacrificed so much to protect. (Forget that we have evidence that processing Umar through the civil courts has led to extensive cooperation that likely will prevent future attacks). In stark contrast, Cheney believes, incredibly, that "whatever the president does during war is legal." He actually uttered those fascist words and repeated them on national television. He means quite clearly that the president can, during an endless war on terror, authorize against American citizens such heinous crimes such as beatings, torture, murder, property confiscation, indefinite detention with no representation, and unlimited warrantless spying, if the president alone decides such actions advance the cause of war. Cheney believes and openly declared that the president's powers are unlimited. History has shown what unlimited power brings, and that is Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler. Yet Cheney went on Fox News and claimed that our president, the President of the United States of America, has the same unlimited powers as those monsters. Whatever the president does is legal. That is the most frightening declaration any public official in our history has ever made. Those views should marginalize Cheney to the backwaters of American history. Instead this is the guy attacking Obama in full glory with no hint of his extraordinary radicalism in his news coverage.
Cheney believes we must sacrifice our civil rights to protect them; that we have to burn the village to save it. He is wrong at the most fundamental, deepest levels. The war on terror is not the first existential threat we have faced. We have fought and prevailed in the past without sacrificing everything our founders created, and we will do so again. Sadly, Cheney just does not get that basic point. After many public denials, Cheney finally owned up to his role in authorizing torture, after years of denying any involvement. He did so without even a hint of concern that he blatantly lied to the American people for his entire term in office. He lied about Valerie Plame. He lied about wiretapping. He lied about Iraq. He hides his records and secret meetings by making the weird claim he is not part of the Executive Branch. He has no regard truth or the essence of our history.
So we have a man who willingly discards the basic principles embedded in our Constitution attacking the president for upholding the law of the land. We avert our eyes from that absurdity rather than confront Cheney's twisted assertions.
We have the double standard and awesome hypocrisy in Cheney's approach to Richard Reid and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Other than some feeble objections from John Stewart the lies go unchallenged.
We have the man most responsible for neglecting to prevent 9/11 attacking Obama for a foiled attack of much smaller magnitude. His claim is largely reported without pointing out the obvious conflict with historic fact.
Everything about Cheney perverts the truth. His views on national security are sick and paranoid. His dark apocalyptic vision of a United States led by a dictator with limitless power to protect us from an external evil by trampling civil liberties has no place in the bright American landscape. He needs to keep is voice down so that sane adults can have a conversation.
But I know that will not happen, so I again bow to reality. In a previous blog I urged Republicans to make Sarah Palin their candidate in 2012. I now have an additional wish: that Palin make Cheney her running mate. The election in 2012 should be a clear mandate from the voters on whether the United States is going to become a theocratic dictatorship or remain a sectarian democracy as originally conceived. A Palin-Cheney ticket perfectly represents the former, and so I can think of no better way to give the American voters the choice they deserve. We are at a fork in the road of our history, and we will choose one path or the other. There is no middle lane. We can no longer pretend that the two paths represent different approaches to the same goal and that they eventually meet somewhere down the line. They do not. The paths are forever divergent; a democratic society based on the rule of law cannot coexist with a police state driven by zealotry and religious passion. The two choices we face lead to radically different futures, each incompatible with the other, never to reconcile into a shared vision. So let's choose and give the American people exactly what want, whatever that turns out to be.