Former Vice President Cheney sat down with Politico yesterday for his first interview since handing the reigns of power to the Obama administration. During the interview, Cheney wasted no time trying to defend the Bush administration’s unpopular (and perhaps illegal) counterterrorism policies, many of which he created. Cheney warned that if those policies are repealed (as many of them have already) then the U.S. is at greater risk of “a nuclear weapon or a biological agent of some kind” going off in an American city:
“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.”
Except we’ve seen this movie before. On a number of occasions throughout the past five years, Cheney displayed a knack for trying to scare Americans into allowing him to have his way:
— On electing Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) president in 2004: “If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again — that we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.”
— On electing Democrats to control Congress in 2006: Al-Qaeda and other terrorists in Iraq are “trying to break the will of the American people. They’re very sensitive to the fact that we’ve got an election scheduled.”
Cheney has it backwards. It is the Bush administration’s policies that have left America at greater risk of a terror attack involving weapons of mass destruction. The 9/11 Commission criticized the Bush administration for poor performance in securing nuclear materials. Just last December, the congressionally-mandated Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism found that “the odds that terrorists will soon strike a major city with weapons of mass destruction are now better than even” and that “America’s margin of safety is shrinking, not growing.” The report specifically cited the failures of Bush administration policy :
Though U.S. policy and strategy have made progress, they have not kept pace with the growing risks. In the area of counterterrorism, our government has innovated and implemented new initiatives since 9/11, but its focus has been mainly limited to defense, intelligence, and homeland security programs and operations.
The reality is that it is the policies that Cheney has fought so hard for over the years that have made America less safe. His scare tactics are nothing more than an attempt to salvage his own conscience.
Steve Benen writes, “Previous national leaders, once they leave office, usually maintain some sense of decorum, refraining from attacking their successors. Cheney waited just two weeks before accusing the Obama administration of coddling terrorists and putting American lives at risk. Classy.”