Cheney Ignores Bush Pledge That Obama "Deserves My Silence"
During his first post-presidential appearance yesterday in Canada, George W. Bush said he would refrain from criticizing his successor, insisting President Obama "deserves my silence." Apparently, Dick Cheney did not read the memo. In a blistering attack on Obama just two days earlier, Cheney ignored Bush's Golden Rule. And as I noted Sunday, Dick Cheney has also rejected Vice President Al Gore's precedent of respect and restraint towards a new administration.
For his part, President Bush in Calgary gave a rare showing of moderation and grace. Suggesting he would, at least for now, steer clear of clashes with the new occupant of the Oval Office, Bush sent a message to his Republican allies cheerleading for President Obama's failure. "I think it is essential that he be helped in office," he said. And Bush stressed, as Politico noted:
[If] President Obama wants help, "he can pick up the phone and call." Otherwise, Bush said: "He deserves my silence."
"There's plenty of critics in the arena," Bush told a crowd in Calgary, Canada. "I think it's time for the ex-president to tap dance off the stage and let the current president have a go at solving the world's problems. If he wants my help and I agree with him, I'll give it."
For Dick Cheney, that approach is about as welcome as a shotgun blast to the face.
In an interview with CNN's John King Sunday, the former Vice President insisted the Bush administration's programs of domestic surveillance and detainee torture were "absolutely essential" and were done "legally" and "in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles." And by rejecting those tactics, Cheney thundered, President Obama is making the country less safe:
"President Obama campaigned against it all across the country, and now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack."
Of course, Cheney's histrionics didn't start Sunday. Days before Obama's inauguration, Vice President Cheney launched a preemptive strike against the incoming White House team. On January 9, he said of the Bush team's terror-fighting tactics, "I don't have any reason to believe that they did anything wrong or inappropriate." That declaration came just three weeks after a December 15 interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl in which Cheney suggested President Obama should follow the same course:
"I think it's vital that they sit down and -- which I believe they're doing -- and look at the specific threat that's out there, to understand these programs and how they operate, and see the extent to which we were very cautious in terms of how we put them together, and then make a decision based on that with respect to whether or not they're going to continue. They shouldn't just fall back on campaign rhetoric to make these very fundamental decisions about the safety of the nation."
After the bitterly disputed 2000 election, Vice President Al Gore reacted to the Supreme Court decision by declaring, "I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country." Then in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Gore announced, "George W. Bush is my president, and I will follow him, as will we all, in this time of crisis."
In this, another time of national crisis, George W. Bush for now is paying it forward. As for Dick Cheney, he's showing Barack Obama the back of his hand..