Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

02/05/2009 (9:52 am)

Hypocrisy Fest Over Cheney Interview (Updated)

Leftist blogs are absolutely outdoing each other to see which can spout the most outrageous hypocrisy in the wake of Politico’s 90-minute interview with Vice President Dick Cheney. The reactions were immediate, vitriolic, unhinged, and utterly devoid of even the tiniest self-reflection.

Politico reporters Allen, Harris, and Vandehei apparently asked Cheney questions regarding the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies, particularly focusing on detention and interrogations. I say “apparently asked” because none of the reports contain any of the questions; they simply report what Cheney said. Even Politico’s audio clip of the interview has the questions edited out. This becomes important when we consider the hysterical criticisms launched in Vice President Cheney’s direction yesterday.

The criticisms fall into two, predictable categories:

1) Cheney is fear-mongering!

Winners in this category include Think Progress, which complained that “Cheney displayed a knack for trying to scare Americans into allowing him to have his way,” and TalkLeft, which remarked that “…Cheney’s generic and self-serving fear-mongering is pathetic.”

Here’s what they’re complaining about:

Cheney said “the ultimate threat to the country” is “a 9/11-type event where the terrorists are armed with something much more dangerous than an airline ticket and a box cutter – a nuclear weapon or a biological agent of some kind” that is deployed in the middle of an American city.

“That’s the one that would involve the deaths of perhaps hundreds of thousands of people, and the one you have to spend a hell of a lot of time guarding against,” he said.

“I think there’s a high probability of such an attempt. Whether or not they can pull it off depends whether or not we keep in place policies that have allowed us to defeat all further attempts, since 9/11, to launch mass-casualty attacks against the United States.”

I’m genuinely curious about the reaction here. I would have thought that a blind pig leaning on a mechanical typewriter could accurately predict that terrorists are going to “make the attempt” to attack the US with WMDs at some point in the future. This sounds uncontroversial to me. I thought this was commonly understood. The Jordan truck bomb plot in 2004 was just such an attempt (albeit attacking Jordan, not the US.) A year ago, the LA Times quoted “current and former US Intelligence officials” assessing that al Qaeda is attempting such an attack. The Christian Science Monitor called such an attempt inevitable back in 2003. A Congressional Committee report published late in 2008 agreed. Several movies and TV shows have been made on this premise. Just about everybody believes it.

So, why is it so outrageous for Dick Cheney to say so, and to defend his administration’s approach to preventing it? What do they expect him to say when asked about it? “Now that I’m out of office, I freely admit that my policies were useless, and really any policy would have done just as well?” No doubt the deranged lib-monkeys believe he ought to say something like this, but why should anybody sane expect it? These folks seem never to have heard of Occam’s Razor: the explanation that he actually believes what he says explains his position perfectly well, so why do they need insane conspiracy theories to explain it?

The simple fact is, it’s fear-mongering to disagree with the left. That’s their definition. How dare we suggest that their bad policies may produce bad results?

2) Cheney violated a tradition of civility! He has no class!

The second most common complaint was that there’s an unwritten rule of post-presidential civility that says that former Presidents don’t criticize sitting Presidents, and Cheney broke it. I nearly lost it when I read the first of these, and then I discovered that there were several. Kudos for over-the-top, breathless denunciation go to The Moderate Voice (a badly misnamed site) and Washington Monthly.

Their problem here is that if there ever was such a rule, the Clinton administration has long since shredded it and left it in small pieces on the floor. President Clinton criticized Bush’s “isolationist” foreign policy, his “racially divisive” economic policies, his deficit spending, his commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence, his “ignoring” domestic issues, his Iraq policy, and his run-up to the Iraq war, in a string of unsolicited public denunciations ranging from 2002 to 2008. Vice President Al Gore also got in on the fun, even going to the point of famously (and laughably) declaring that President Bush “betrayed his country!” That’s just the high point; Gore also denounced Bush’s handling of intelligence documents, his environmental policies, his choice of CIA Director (this arguably during a Presidential bid, so it’s less of a violation IMHO,) his economic policies and civil liberties record, his alleged involvement in the Enron scandal and his middle east policies, his “lying” about Iraq, his tax cuts, his Afghanistan policy, his irresponsibility regarding climate change, even his faith for crying out loud (seriously, can you believe this?)

Oh, and by the way: when the lefties at Media Matters decided to comment on the practice, they did it by pointing out a handful of instances (mostly forgivable, but a few actually on the mark) where Bush 41 criticized Clinton.

So, where were these Protectors of the Tradition of Civil Discourse during the past 8 years? And why, suddenly, are we now supposed to resume the tradition, after they so heartily dismissed it; nay, ravaged and decimated it? Why is Cheney “tasteless” and “classless” while Clinton and Gore get a permanent pass? No doubt the chimpanzees will insist that Clinton and Gore were “correct” and speaking in “good conscience.” This is laughably untrue — they are neither correct, nor speaking in good conscience — but it’s also beside the point; either there’s a tradition of Presidential civility, or there is not. They can’t have it both ways, and given their performance of the last 8 years, it’s too late for them to ask for it back and be taken seriously.

Special mention goes to the entertainingly obtuse Mr. Alan Colmes, who attempted to pre-empt any defense of Cheney by citing conservatives’ reactions to Jimmy Carter’s tasteless rants against the Bush administration. “Let’s not forget how conservatives went bonkers after Jimmy Carter criticized the Bush administration,” Colmes snarked. “Will they hold Cheney to the same standard?”

I did not watch Hannity and Colmes regularly — I only pay for basic cable TV in order to get broadband internet access — but when I had the pleasure, I always felt sorry for Colmes, because I thought he was forced by the structure of the show to come up with unsound comparisons to balance the unrelenting incivility of the leftist Shriek Machine. It turns out I was being too generous; the current topic suggests he really does lack the capacity to assess analogies accurately. The complaint about Carter was not just the sheer, outlandish vitriol of his comments (Bush was “the worst President in history” and “reversed America’s basic values,” according to Carter,) but the violation of a much more serious and longer-standing tradition of public decorum: he used the occasion of Coretta Scott King’s funeral to launch his completely unsolicited tirade — which he delivered in the presence of three other Presidents.

By contrast to every instance I’ve mentioned so far, but particularly by contrast to Colmes’ instance, this unspeakable incivility of Vice President Cheney’s was solicited. Politico asked to interview him. Cheney was not seeking notoriety; they sought him out. And then, they asked him a bunch of questions regarding the reasons for his policy choices regarding terrorism. All he was doing was answering questions. But this is some stark, unprecedented violation of long-standing rules, it is. Leftists are insane.

Perhaps what’s new here is reporters seeking out a recently retired Vice President and asking him point-blank what he thinks of the policies that are replacing his own. None of the blog responses reflected on this possibility.

Interestingly, all the criticism misses one of the starkest departures from past behavior that we’ve seen. Remember Bill Clinton’s histrionics as he left the White House, buying a mansion in New York, taking furniture from the White House, announcing his Presidential Library? Cheney’s conduct is the opposite of Clinton’s rooster dance:

If Cheney’s language was dramatic, the setting for the comments was almost bizarrely pedestrian. His office is in a non-descript suburban office building in McLean, Va., in a suite that could just as easily house a dental clinic. The office is across the hall from a quick-copy store. The door is marked by nothing except a paper sign, held up by tape, saying the unit is occupied by the General Services Administration…

After leaving office, Cheney and his wife, Lynne, went first to his home in Wyoming, then returned to Washington to enjoy their grandchildren. He’s working on a book about his career, which has included stints as a House member, White House chief of staff and secretary of Defense.

Once again, leftists paint a picture of power-mad, vicious, opulence-obsessed Republicans and proletarian Democrats, but the facts illustrate that their image is inverted. It’s the Democrats who grasp after power and opulence, and the Republicans who represent ordinary decency.

UPDATE: Speaking of fear-mongering, Michelle Malkin notes that President Obama has resorted to it in response to the fact that he’s losing the message war over the Wreck Our Economy Act, often mistakenly referred to as the stimulus bill.

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