Dick Cheney is not going to fade away.
George Bush may have retreated to Texas to clear brush and ponder how things went so horribly wrong. But Cheney, who failed out of the university from which Bush graduated, has never been so reflective as the former president.
Bush may actually be embarrassed, or scared, about the mess that was made of international affairs, the economy and our system of constitutional governance during his eight years in the White House.
There will be no apologies from the former vice president.
And there will be no withdrawal from the political frontlines by the man who spun out of the Nixon White House to become Gerald Ford’s chief of staff, parlayed that role into a seat in Congress where he served as Ronald Reagan’s House floor leader, exploited personal and political ties to position himself as George H.W. Bush’s secretary of defense and then effectively nominated himself to be George W. Bush’s vice president.
Cheney, whose ambition has always exceeded his knowledge and skill, is determined to defend the political misdeeds, policy machinations and power grabs that — thanks to George W. Bush’s ignorance about the most basic workings of the White House — briefly made him the most powerful man in the world.
That was evident last week, when Scooter Libby’s unindicted co-conspirator appeared on CNN.
Asked by John King if he thought President Obama “has made Americans less safe,” Cheney responded with the solemn concern of a man who dodged the draft five times: “I do.”
Griping that Obama had backed off the most brutal excesses of the previous administration’s torturous tenure, Cheney defended detention and interrogation techniques that have been broadly condemned by the international community and civil libertarians of the left and right at home. Despite extensive evidence to the contrary, the ex-veep described waterboarding and worse as “absolutely essential” to keeping Americans safe, declared rough interrogation “a great success story” and defended as legal and “in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles” actions that top lawyers and constitutional scholars describe as high crimes and misdemeanors.
For good measure, the former vice president who made it the primary purpose of his first two years in office to get the United States bogged down in a war in Iraq, put a “mission accomplished” sticker on the Iraq file.