Bitter And Afraid

The former vice president, the man who imported torture into the American constitutional system, failed to capture bin Laden, invaded a country under false pretenses, allowed the Afghanistan campaign to disintegrate, and added $5 trillion to the next generation's debt burden, is attacking a sitting president on a day he announces a critical military strategy in front of his troops.

It is, again, a breathtaking piece of dishonor from this bitter, angry man. To accuse your successor of "weakness" because he has actually conscientiously tried to figure out the right thing to do in a war Cheney and Bush clearly botched is a new low in American politics and the partisan politicization of war and peace.

The attack on Obama is an accusation of treason:

“Here’s a guy without much experience, who campaigned against much of what we put in place ... and who now travels around the world apologizing,” Cheney said. “I think our adversaries especially when that’s preceded by a deep bow ... see that as a sign of weakness.”

Specifically, Cheney said the Justice Department decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, in New York City is “great” for Al Qaeda.

“One of their top people will be given the opportunity courtesy of the United States government and the Obama administration to have a platform from which they can espouse this hateful ideology that they adhere to,” he said. “I think it’s likely to give encouragement aid and comfort to the enemy.”

Accusing the president of giving aid and comfort to the enemy is such a disgusting charge, such a deeply divisive, unAmerican tactic, it would be excoriated if it came from some far right blogger. That it comes from a former vice-president, violating every conceivable protocol (as he did in office), reminds me of why Cheney and Cheneyism remain such a threat to core American and Western values.

If you truly use a position of such authority to show contempt for the sitting president, to accuse him of treason, to attack him on the day he addresses the nation in a critical address, to divide him from the troops, to use sacred issues of war and peace which a president is solemnly engaging as a political weapon or as a vain and self-serving attempt to make your own record look better, then you have no core respect for the institutions and traditions and civility that make a constitutional democracy possible.

Look also at the focus of his attack: the civil trial of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed in New York City. All Cheney can see is the opportunity for such a figure to grandstand, as if KSM's rantings will have any effect but to demystify him. What Cheney cannot see - because he has no deep appreciation of it - is the beauty of treating a monster like KSM to the stringent calm of Western justice. And what Cheney fears - for he is no fool - is that the trial will also reveal Cheney's torture regime, how it distorted intelligence, prevented bringing suspects to justice and tarred the US for ever as a country that now does what its enemies used to do: abuse, torture and mistreat prisoners in wartime.

I might add that one wonders what the circumstances were in which Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei took a trip to interview Cheney the day before Obama's Afghanistan address. What was the news hook? Did Cheney summon them to transcribe his vile assault? Did they request a newsy interview the day before Obama's speech?

Here's what I fear: that in a media era in which pageviews count more than actual news, Politico has allowed itself to become a conduit for political actors, rather than an independent voice covering news. This kind of story - which is really about itself - certainly doesn't defuse such fears.