The vindication of Dick Cheney
By Glenn Greenwald
Salon , January 18, 2011
In the early months of Obama's presidency, the American Right did to him what they do to every Democratic politician: they accused him of being soft of defense (specifically "soft on Terror") and leaving the nation weak and vulnerable to attack. But that tactic quickly became untenable as everyone (other than his hardest-core followers) was forced to acknowledge that Obama was embracing and even expanding -- rather than reversing -- the core Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism. As a result, leading right-wing figures began lavishing Obama with praise -- and claiming vindication -- based on Obama's switch from harsh critic of those policies (as a candidate) to their leading advocate (once in power).
As early as May, 2009, former Bush OLC lawyer Jack Goldsmith wrote in The New Republic that Obama was not only continuing Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies, but was strengthening them -- both because he was causing them to be codified in law and, more important, converting those policies from right-wing dogma into harmonious bipartisan consensus. Obama's decision "to continue core Bush terrorism policies is like Nixon going to China," Goldsmith wrote. Last October, former Bush NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden -- one of the most ideological Bush officials, whose confirmation as CIA chief was opposed by then-Sen. Obama on the ground he had overseen the illegal NSA spying program -- gushed with praise for Obama: "there's been a powerful continuity between the 43rd and the 44th president." James Jay Carafano, a homeland-security expert at the Heritage Foundation, told The New York Times' Peter Baker last January: "I don’t think it's even fair to call it Bush Lite. It's Bush. It's really, really hard to find a difference that's meaningful and not atmospheric."
Those are the nation's most extreme conservatives praising Obama's Terrorism policies. And now Dick Cheney himself -- who once led the "soft on Terror" attacks -- is sounding the same theme. In an interview last night with NBC News, Cheney praised Obama for continuing his and Bush's core approach to Terrorism:He obviously has been through the fires of becoming President and having to make decisions and live with the consequences. And it's different than being a candidate. When he was candidate he was all for closing Gitmo. He was very critical of what we'd done on the counterterrorism area to protect America from further attack and so forth. . . .
I think he's -- in terms of a lot of the terrorism policies -- the early talk, for example, about prosecuting people in the CIA who've been carrying out our policies -- all of that's fallen by the wayside. I think he's learned that what we did was far more appropriate than he ever gave us credit for while he was a candidate. So I think he's learned from experience.
Cheney was then specifically asked whether he stood by his early attacks on Obama's national security policies -- "You said you believe President Obama has made America less safe. That he's actually raised the risk of attack. Do you still feel that way?" -- and Cheney, not exactly known for changing his mind, essentially said that, thanks to Obama's continuity, he now does not:Well, when I made that comment, I was concerned that the counterterrorism policies that we'd put in place after 9/11 that had kept the nation safe for over seven years were being sort of rapidly discarded. Or he was going to attempt to discard them. . . . As I say, I think he's found it necessary to be more sympathetic to the kinds of things we did.