Has anyone in U.S. history made more Americans less safe than Dick Cheney?

People who live in green houses shouldn’t throw stones

cheney.jpgBack in March, Darth Vader former Vice President Dick Cheney said Americans are “less safe” now thanks to President Barack Obama and his policies.  He repeated and expanded on the charge yesterday on Face the Nation.

Let’s set aside the fact that if a President’s actions and policies in his first 100 days make him 100% responsible for any attack on this nation, than Bush and Cheney are 100% responsible for 9/11.

Terrorism is a real threat to Americans.  But it pales in comparison to the scale and scope of the threat posed by unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases.  In the words of IPCC head R.K. Pachauri — who was essentially hand-picked by Cheney himself to replace the “alarmist” Bob Watson:

The cities, power plants and factories we build in the next seven years will shape our climate in mid-century. We have to act now to price carbon and create incentives to change the way we use energy and spread technology “” and thereby avert nothing less than an existential threat to civilization.

As the uber-centrist Brookings Institution put it in a pre-election op-ed:

Today’s adults, even if they will not be around at mid-century, must think about the fate of their children and grandchildren. Obama can look to his two daughters, and McCain to his four grandchildren. They are among nearly 75 million Americans “” and 2.2 billion people worldwide “” younger than 18. That generation will be in its 40s or 50s when one of two things happens: Either the temperature of the planet warms more than 4.5 degrees and vast regions slide toward being uninhabitable, or the wisdom of the next president and his fellow leaders around the world pays off in the ultimate reward “” survival.

Global warming is the only true preventable existential threat to the health and well-being — the security and safety — of Americans.

So I repeat the headline question — has anyone in U.S. history made more Americans less safe than Dick Cheney?

Remember, President Bush campaigned on regulating carbon dioxide emissions from electric utilities.  Dick Cheney is the person who killed that.  Indeed, it is doubtful that Bush had particularly strong opinions on any major energy or environmental issue.  Cheney after all is the one who put together Bush’s entire energy plan.

Cheney led the effort to block all EPA action on climate and censor U.S. scientists from even telling the American public about the dangers posed by global warming as the Center for American Progress Action Fund detailed in a report (see “Dick Cheney didn’t get memo on shifting from denial to delay“):

Last October, Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee about the “Human Impacts of Global Warming.” Gerberding told the committee that global warming “is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts on the health of Americans,” but she gave few specifics, instead focusing on the CDC’s current preparation plans. Soon after Gerberding delivered her testimony, CDC officials revealed that the White House had “eviscerated” her testimony by editing it down from 14 pages to four….   In a letter responding to questions by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) yesterday, former EPA official Jason Burnett revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and the Council on Environmental Quality pushed to “remove from the testimony any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change.”

CHENEY’S MALIGN ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCE: In his letter to Boxer, Burnett revealed that Cheney’s office had also objected in January to congressional testimony by EPA administrator Stephen Johnson that “greenhouse gas emissions harm the environment.” According to Burnett, an official in Cheney’s office “called to tell me that his office wanted the language changed.” Such actions are not unusual for Cheney. Since taking office, he has taken “a decisive role to undercut long-standing environmental regulations for the benefit of business” while undermining any real action to combat climate change. In December, after Johnson “answered the pleas of industry executives” by announcing his decision to deny California the right to regulate greenhouse gases from vehicles, it was revealed that executives from the auto industry had appealed directly to Cheney. EPA staffers told the Los Angeles Times that Johnson “made his decision” only after Cheney met with the executives. Since February 2007, Cheney has quietly maneuvered to exert increased control over environmental policy by federal agencies “” particularly the regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.

One could write an entire book on Cheney’s single-handed efforts to destroy a livable climate for your children, grandchildren, and the next 50 generations of Americans.  I suspect someone will.  The Washington Post ahs already written a long story about his role promoting pollution: “The vice president has intervened in many cases to undercut long-standing environmental rules for the benefit of business.”

Cheney is too old to see the worst of what his policies will do.  And CBS’s Bob Schieffer never seriously challenged any of his assertions.

But history will not be kind to Cheney and Bush.  Assuming that we don’t avert catastrophic global warming, they will be seen as two of the worst leaders in U.S. history — a judgment some are already issuing:  “Bush will go down in history as possibly a person who has doomed the planet.” Make that, “Bush and Cheney.”

12 Responses to Has anyone in U.S. history made more Americans less safe than Dick Cheney?

  1. Gail says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this assessment, however, the more I read about the history of climate change, it appears to me that we have had catastrophic temperature rise in the works for decades. Scientists have been warning about this for a very long time. They didn’t have all the empirical evidence, but the general outlines have been clear to anyone who was paying attention. Peak oil and overpopulation and unsustainable lifestyles are not new concepts.

    So to pick the major villain, I would go back to Reagan and all the people who voted for “Mourning in America” because they didn’t want to be told they had to lower the thermostat. I think that election was the point at which we should have had the Pearl Harbor moment, and thrown everything we had at strategies for conservation, developing alternative energies, and fuel-efficient vehicles, instead of building up the military and squabbling over that idiotic Star Wars plan.

    Bush and Cheney just prolonged the fiddling while Rome is burning out of control.

  2. jorleh says:

    In Cheney we find tens of Saddams. Read only his torture memos. Eight years under the terror of Cheney and Bush was too much for us all. I think we shall not overcome those years and survive.

  3. Joe says:

    Gail — Certainly, you can go back to Reagan in terms of having guided the budget for energy efficiency and solar and wind (plus the tax credits). But it would be difficult to say that he did so knowing the climate consequences.

    The IPCC reports, especially the 2001 report, and then the National Academy of Sciences report, Bush commissioned (which was supposed to provide cover for his in action but did not) mean they were witting accomplices, the Dr. Kevorkians of U.S. climate policy, perhaps.

  4. Stefan Min says:

    Cheney the Darth Vader? — No. Cheney is the Emperor.

  5. Philip H says:

    Ok, so Mr. Cheney is a villan – I can accept that on many levels. But I think the enviornmental community (and this blog) are wasting too much time on scratching at his eyeballs. My dad is a history professor, and he’d be the first to tell you that a detailed understanding of historical truths doesn’t replace bold, decisive action in the here and now.

    We know, both in a gross sense, and in the sense of actions each and everyone of us has taken each day, how we got to this climate tipping point. We know, or at least those of us who read, study and synthesize know that the climate crisis is an existential threat.

    Knowing is not enough. Acting is a must. Otherwisse, we’ll end up condemning the Dick Cheney’s of the world as our economy crumbles, our people become climate refugees, and our “American way of life” floats off on the rising tide of sea level.

  6. Gail says:

    Philip H, perhaps we should have a sit in or a hunger strike until climate change is addressed by the legislature. I’m serious. If there are enough of us who truly believe that the future viability of human civilization is at stake, could there be any reason we shouldn’t put all other considerations aside and DO something, en mass, besides talk to each other? Something that will get media attention and put pressure on our lawmakers.

  7. Bullwinkle says:


    Darth Cheney is part of the cabal leadership of the Republican party. He has a place in history to be sure, but he also acts in the hear and now. Speaking out against him is not only justified, it’s an obligation. Pushing back against him and his allies is acting.

  8. Dave Romm says:

    A conservative is someone who hasn’t figured out that they’ve lost.
    A liberal is someone who hasn’t figured out that they’ve won.

    Dick Cheney doesn’t have the values that make America great. And he arrogantly doesn’t get it. We should laugh at him and his ilk, and we should ignore his suggestions.

    Meanwhile, now that adults are in charge, we must take action. Obama is doing okay, straining against the harsh inertia of DC. He can do better. We can do better.

  9. See Naomi Oreskes

    “Lyndon Johnson may have been the first U.S. president to be warned about the dangers of climate change. In 1965, his Science Advisory Panel reported that the burning of fossil fuels would “modify the heat balance of the atmosphere to such an extent that marked changes in climate, not controllable through local or national efforts, could occur.””

    But Johnson, and later Nixon, just ignored the problem. Bush/Cheney actively disregarded.

    In the blame game, I give they should share a top billing.

  10. Ronald says:

    I remember months after Dick Chaney was in office of Vice President, some environmental group had a truckload of coal dumped at the Vice Presidents residence. (isn’t the vice presidents residence at the Naval Observatory, not that I know Washington DC, only the popular tourist areas)

    Maybe dumping the truckload of coal had a political purpose, but was it persuasive? or likely no affect at all.

  11. oxnardprof says:

    I think it is important to expose the actions of the Bush administration in the area of climate change, and their denial of science in general. I hope that conservatives will learn that a desire for ideological purity should not trump facts in science, in particular climate change. The more the ideological (or perhaps motivated by personal financial gain) activities of Mr. Cheney are brought to light, I hope that moderate Republicans as well as moderate Democrats can be motivated to act in our long-term benefit.

  12. Rick Covert says:

    So buckshot thinks Obama’s first 100 days trump the almost certain failure that the Cheney-Bush administration to make the American people safe demonstrated during 9/11 and again and again going on with the serial food poisoning alerts, toxic toys, mining cave in disasters, unsafe workplaces and failure to enact policies throught the EPA and lobby for legistlation to curtail the worst effects of global warming and insure a liveable climate. If you believe that sort of drivel you’re likely to be the one who unquestionably would settle for a speeding ticket handed to you by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.