Axelrod vs. Cheney

Neat video courtesy of ThinkProgress of David Axelrod hitting back against Dick Cheney’s criticisms of the Obama administration:

This leads Kevin Drum to remark:

I’ve been mulling this ever since Cheney started spouting off a few weeks ago, and I still haven’t really made up my mind about it. Does an outgoing administration owe an incoming one silence? I don’t think that’s always been the case (historians please correct me here if I’m wrong), and I wonder if it really should be

. Sure, it would be unseemly for ex-presidents and their staffs to engage in partisan feeding frenzies after they leave office, but is there really any reason why they should all take vows of silence? If Cheney thinks torture and warrantless wiretapping are vital to the nation’s security, then maybe he should go ahead and say so. Why not?


I think the “don’t criticize your successor” rule only makes sense as prudential advice. Not only is Dick Cheney not a credible messenger, but him speaking out looks like sour grapes and it’s all vaguely absurd. The prudent ex-president or ex-veep tries to shift into high-minded elder statesman terrain rather than slumming it à la Cheney.

But as a substantive rule, a “keep quiet” doctrine wouldn’t make sense. It was a good thing that Al Gore brought the credibility and perspective he had as a former Vice President to bear and criticized the invasion of Iraq. And even though I tend not to agree with Cheney on the merits of issues, there’s no denying that he’s been able to look at these things up close so if he thinks it’s important for him to speak out I have no procedural objection to that. It’s just that you’d have to be pretty dumb to actually think it makes sense to take advice from a guy with Cheney’s record.