The Blog

Cheney's Right

11:57 AM, Feb 4, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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And the left can't stand it. After eight years, or maybe seven, in which the left seemed to be rooting for catastrophe -- in Iraq, in the economy, in the war on terror -- they're getting a taste of their own medicine. Did Democrats want to see the economy go belly up in 2004, when the biggest story every month leading up to the election was the jobs numbers? In late 2006, when the violence in Iraq was at its worst, Anbar had been written off as a lost cause, and President Bush began entertaining a surge of forces, did Democrats want to see the administration fail? When reports first emerged of wiretapping, harsh interrogations, and extraordinary rendition, did the left not wish to see these policies backfire by undermining support for American policies among our allies? It seemed that way on the right, even if Democrats really did have what they believed to be the best interests of America at heart. Likewise during the 2008 election, when the economic collapse seemed to be the final nail in the coffin of Republican rule -- for many on the right it seemed as if the Obama campaign had sold America short.

Now former Vice President Cheney is on the record saying that the war on terror policies put in place by the Bush administration cannot be discarded without consequence. Of course, this is precisely why those policies were implemented in the first place -- the widely held view inside the Bush administration that in order to keep Americans safe, terrorists detained on the battlefield needed to be denied certain legal protections and exposed to more rigorous methods of intelligence collection than had been employed before. For the left, it is an article of faith that these policies are unnecessary, that they are the product of a "false choice" as Obama famously said during his inaugural. Obama and the left accused the Bush administration of violating domestic and international law, of betraying the principles upon which the republic was founded, and of making America less safe.

The tables have now turned. The idea that Cheney wishes to be vindicated by a terrorist attack is absurd, but this is the paranoid idea now spreading across the left. Cheney says in the interview, "When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry." If Obama and the left are correct that the Bush administration accepted a false choice between principle and security, then they have nothing to worry about. But if they are wrong, and there is a terrorist attack, this will be the narrative on the right, and it is a narrative that I have absolutely no doubt will return the Republican party to power. I'd much rather see Obama succeed, and so would Cheney. But no one should expect Republicans to bite their tongues as Obama dismantles the policies that effectively kept this country safe since the attacks of September 11.