The IUSB Vision Weblog

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Leftist Columnist: Dick Cheney Has Been Vindicated. Democrats Should Apologize.

Posted by iusbvision on January 19, 2011

So where are all of the alleged privacy activists now? You have proved yourself to be nothing but mere partisan attack dogs.

I would like to remind my leftist readers that I only supported the Patriot Act after the Supreme Court trimmed it and only as long as the sunset provisions were in place. The Democrats have made the Patriot Act permanent and have expanded domestic spying; they have also argued in the courts to expand it even more.

Glenn Greenwald at Solon.com:

I genuinely believe Obama and the Democratic Party owe a heartfelt, public apology to Bush, Cheney and the GOP for all the harsh insults they spewed about them for years based on policies they are now themselves aggressively continuing. Obama has won the War on Terror debate — for the American Right. And as Cheney demonstrates, they’re every bit as appreciative as they should be.

More:

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 on 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 inThe 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.

It overstates the case to say there are no differences.  There were some: Obama formally ended the “enhanced interrogation program” (the authorization for which had been withdrawn when he took office); banned CIA black sites (which were empty when he took office); and has not invoked the Article II lawbreaking theories of Bush’s first term (Bush largely abandoned them as well in his second term as Congress began legalizing his programs).  And there is a more conciliatory tone, and some greater technocratic efficiency, in some foreign policy pronouncements.  But the crux of Bush/Cheney radicalism — the mindset and policies that caused much of the controversy — continues and has even been strengthened.  Gen. Hayden put it best, as quoted byThe Washington Times:

“You’ve got state secrets, targeted killings, indefinite detention, renditions, the opposition to extending the right of habeas corpus to prisoners at Bagram [in Afghanistan],” Mr. Hayden said, listing the continuities. “And although it is slightly different, Obama has been as aggressive as President Bush in defending prerogatives about who he has to inform in Congress for executive covert action.”

And that list, impressive though it is, doesn’t even include the due-process-free assassination hit lists of American citizens, the sweeping executive power and secrecy theories used to justify it, the multi-tiered, “state-always-wins” justice system the Obama DOJ concocted for detainees, the vastly more aggressive war on whistleblowers and press freedoms, or the new presidential immunity doctrines his DOJ has invented.  Critically, this continuity extends beyond specific policies into the underlying sloganeering mentality in which they’re based:  we’re in a Global War; the whole Earth is the Battlefield; the Terrorists want to kill us because they’re intrinsically Evil (not in reaction to anything we do); we’re justified in doing anything and everything to eradicate Them; the President’s overarching obligation (contrary to his Constitutional oath) is to keep us Safe; this should all be kept secret from us; we can’t be bothered with obsolete dogma like Due Process and Warrants, etc. etc.

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