If you have been plagued in recent days by not knowing the answer to the question, “What would Dick Cheney do?”, then your sleepless nights may be behind you. The former vice president is back, with a new book (written with his daughter Liz), media interviews, and a much-promoted speech coming up next week.
But are the Republicans running for president listening?
That may seem like an odd question to ask. After all, the candidates seem united in their belief that Barack Obama is a weak weakling making America weak, and that if they’re president they’ll be so strong they might just install an arm-wrestling pit on the South Lawn so those terrorists know who they’re messing with. But if you look a little closer, it’s hard to see much appetite even in the GOP for the kind of ambitious empire-building that Cheney advocates.
True to form, the excerpt of the Cheneys’ book published in the Wall Street Journal delivers all the falsehoods, bizarre leaps of logic, and panicky fear-mongering we’ve come to expect from them. Cheney tried to convince America that Saddam Hussein was responsible for September 11th. He said that “we do know, with absolute certainty, that [Saddam] is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.” He said, “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”
And that very same man now writes: “The Obama agreement will lead to a nuclear-armed Iran, a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East and, more than likely, the first use of a nuclear weapon since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
World War II figures prominently in Cheney’s new narrative, and not just because he, like so many other Republicans, compares Barack Obama to Neville Chamberlain. For Cheney, that war isn’t just a story of what could go wrong, it’s a story of what could go right. It’s a tale of American greatness and triumph, a heroic battle in which brave American boys are sent forth to beat back evil and secure our place as the guarantor of freedom in every corner of the globe:
As citizens, we have another obligation. We have a duty to protect our ideals and our freedoms by safeguarding our history. We must ensure that our children know the truth about who we are, what we’ve done, and why it is uniquely America’s duty to be freedom’s defender.
They should know about the boys of Pointe du Hoc and Doolittle’s Raiders, the battles of Midway and Iwo Jima. They should learn about the courage of the young Americans who fought the Nazis at the Battle of the Bulge and the Japanese on Okinawa. They should learn why America was right to end the war by dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and about the fundamental decency of a nation that established the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They need to know about the horror of the Holocaust, and what it means to promise “never again.”…
They should learn about great men like George C. Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. We must teach them what it took to prevail over evil in the 20th century and what it will take in the 21st. We must make sure they understand that it is the brave men and women of the U.S. armed forces who defend our freedom and secure it for millions of others as well.
It’s been said before that to today’s conservatives, it’s always 1938 and every diplomatic agreement with a foreign power is Munich. Which is true enough, but you don’t hear the Republican presidential candidates using World War II to evoke this vision of the glorious future to come once we start building a new Pax Americana. They may be hawks who want to increase military spending, but they also have all come to agree that the Iraq War, our biggest military adventure in recent decades, was a mistake (Cheney, for the record, believes no such thing). They always want to “keep all options on the table,” but they’re not presenting a future of limitless war as something we should actually aspire to.
That’s the difference between a standard-issue Republican and a true neoconservative. In the field of 17 GOP candidates, the closest thing to a neocon is Lindsey Graham, and even his thirst for war seems more a product of the white-knuckle terror in which he apparently spends every waking hour, and not Cheney’s yearning for the majesty of empire.
You’d think there would be few things the GOP could want less than to have Cheney be its most visible voice on foreign affairs, if even for just a while. After all, the greatest defender of the Iraq debacle and America’s foremost torture advocate had an approval rating upon leaving office that in one poll measured a remarkable 13 percent. At this point the average voter probably couldn’t tell you a thing about the candidates’ foreign policy visions, and that’s in large part because those visions are so vague, once you get beyond the part about Barack Obama weakening America. Dick Cheney, on the other hand, has vision to spare. But it’s probably not the one his party wants to spend too much time promoting.