Ann McFeatters: We don't know how former Vice President Dick Cheney feels about the new airport body scanners that explicitly show the human body, but we have to assume he's gung-ho for them. He is on a self-imposed mission to scare us about how vulnerable we are to another 9/11 attack.
We don't know how former Vice President Dick Cheney feels about the new airport body scanners that explicitly show the human body, but we have to assume he's gung-ho for them.
Cheney is on a self-imposed mission to scare us about how vulnerable we are to another 9/11 attack. Refusing to retire out West to fish and shoot (animals, not Texas lawyers), he is front and center arguing for invasion of privacy, water boarding, preemptive wars, jailing suspects without due process and dismissing Democrats as clueless wimps.
With Sarah Palin out making gazillions of dollars, Newt Gingrich trapped in the last century, Republicans on Capitol Hill flailing in a free for all with Democrats and tea partiers all atwitter about everything, Cheney has become our national naysayer.
Instead of mellowing, Cheney, one of the most unpopular vice presidents ever among Democrats, Republicans, Independents and those who have never set foot in a voting booth, is as intense as ever. It seems as though Cheney has been angry for decades.
Cheney and Vice President Joe Biden have become part of Sunday morning, sparring back and forth on the talk shows, wisps of smoke coming from their nostrils.
Cheney accuses Biden and President Obama of making the United States less safe by trying terror suspects in civilian courts, pretending we're not at war, forbidding torture and letting suspects "lawyer up." This White House is all but inviting terrorists in, he says acidly. Cheney says nearly everything acidly.
"I was a big supporter of water boarding," he proudly informed ABC News. Never mind the rest of the world, which regards near-drowning people as torture. The Bush administration phased out water boarding before Obama forbid it.
Biden scoffs that Cheney, whom he once called the most dangerous vice president in U.S. history, makes up facts and rewrites history. Biden insists the Obama administration has been "absolutely relentless" in fighting terrorism, following much the same playbook as the Bush administration. Cheney counters there were major "shootouts" in the Bush administration and that he didn't always win.
The Obama administration claims it has tripled drone attacks, added 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan and captured the top 12 al Qaida terrorists. Cheney says this White House doesn't have the right "mind set" about how dangerous terrorism is.
Cheney is angry that the Christmas Day bomber was read his legal rights by the Obama administration although the Bush administration read the shoe bomber his rights. Cheney says terrorists should be treated as enemy combatants. Biden says terrorists are murderous criminals and that treating them as soldiers gives them too much stature.
It used to be that former presidents and vice presidents never castigated their successors in public. It used to be considered rude, counterproductive and unseemly to slam the new guys. You saved it for your memoirs.
Now, you muster your vitriol and appear on TV or blog to accuse political opponents of being brain-dead, unpatriotic and uncool. (This also increases the advance check for your memoirs.)
With high-level name-calling so prevalent, it is unsurprising that senators such as Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Evan Bayh of Indiana, even if regarded as deserters by their party, have had enough and are leaving.
What is Cheney's motivation? Take up the slack in GOP leadership? Continue justifying arguments he lost? Persuade Obama to be more hard-line? Undermine the White House to foster a Republican sweep in November? Till the soil for his new book? Vent his spleen?
All of the above, probably. Cheney says he is happy he has the "great freedom and luxury" of speaking his mind (was he ever silent?) and that former President George W. Bush has not discouraged him.
Cheney hasn't decided whom to support for president in 2012 but warns all the candidates they must work hard to persuade voters they are qualified to take on one of the most thankless, toughest jobs in the world.
He got that right.
And if you run into him at an airport, see if he goes through that show-all scanner or finds an excuse to go around it.
(Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.)