We’ve heard quite a bit recently from Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, and Michael Mukasey, so I suppose it stands to reason that it’s time for Alberto Gonzales to reemerge, too.
The former attorney general has been wise to keep a low profile. In office, he was a national laughingstock. Upon Gonzales’ departure, Andrew Cohen wrote a terrific piece explaining, “By any reasonable standard, the Gonzales Era at the Justice Department is void of almost all redemptive qualities.” He sought a legal job in D.C. but couldn’t find a firm that would hire him, and the last I heard, Gonzales ended up teaching at an unaccredited law school.
The former A.G. nevertheless appeared on MSNBC this morning, apparently ready to address some of the ongoing controversies. He seemed inclined to give the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt when it came to subpoenaing Associated Press phone logs, but this nevertheless stood out for me.
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recalled on Wednesday a time when he was confronted with a “very serious leak investigation” similar to the one that has embroiled the Obama administration this week. But, he said, he went a very different route and decided against subpoenaing a reporter’s notes.
Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday defended the seizure of Associated Press phone records, saying the Department of Justice was trying to get to the bottom of a “very serious leak” that “put American people at risk.” Gonzales, who oversaw a massive domestic wiretapping program under former President George W. Bush, acknowledged on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the attorney general is often forced to “make a very hard determination” but when faced with a similar dilemma, his Justice Department “ultimately decided not to move forward.”
Now, I can’t be sure which case Gonzales is referring to, but for the record, let’s not forget that during his tenure as attorney general, the Justice Department “improperly gained access to reporters’ calling records as part of leak investigations.” Indeed, it happened quite a bit.
Unlike the current uproar, we didn’t hear much about this at the time, but if Gonzales wants to give the impression now that his DOJ showed greater restraint when it came to journalists and phone logs, he’s mistaken.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 15, 2013
“The Old Failed Gang Is Back Together”: After Spectacular Failures And Unprecedented Abuses, Pretending To Have Credibility
Several prominent officials from the Bush/Cheney era have been in the news lately, largely as a result of ongoing controversies, but many of them — Robert Gates, retired Adm. Mike Mullen, retired Gen. David Petraeus — are under fire from the right for not toeing the party’s anti-Obama line.
There are, however, plenty of loyal Bushies stepping up to launch rhetorical attacks. Indeed, they seem happy to pretend they still have credibility and are compelling messengers to express their party’s contempt for the president.
Former Attorney General Mike Mukasey was on Fox News this morning accusing Obama of abusing the power of the executive branch (no, seriously); former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is making the rounds on conservative talk radio; and former Vice President Dick Cheney is, well, doing what Dick Cheney does.
“They lied. They claimed it was because of a demonstration video, that they wouldn’t have to admit it was really all about their incompetence,” Cheney told Fox News’s Sean Hannity on Monday. “They ignored repeated warnings from the CIA about the threat. They ignored messages from their own people on the ground that they needed more security.”
“I think it’s one of the worst incidences, frankly, that I can recall in my career … if they told the truth about Benghazi, that it was a terrorist attack by an Al Qaeda-led group, it would destroy the confidence that was the basis of his campaign for reelection,” Cheney added. “They tried to cover it up by constructing a false story.”
As a substantive matter, much of what Cheney said is ridiculous and wrong, as is often the case. If the failed former V.P. has proof of White House lies and a cover-up, he’s welcome to share it, but the fact that preliminary intelligence out of Benghazi was wrong isn’t evidence of either.
But more to the point, does Dick Cheney, of all people, really want to have a conversation about national security lies, ignored warnings about terrorist threats, and covering things up by constructing false stories? Because that’s largely a summary of his eight years of spectacular failures and unprecedented abuses in office. Indeed, I’m not sure whether to find it funny or sad that he, Rumsfeld, and Mukasey feel comfortable showing their faces in public again.
As for Cheney seeing Benghazi as “one of the worst incidences” that he “can recall,” I’m not going to play a game of ranking the seriousness of terrorist attacks, but I’m curious if Cheney recalls 9/11. If he doesn’t think that counts — and there’s some evidence to suggest he doesn’t — and he only wants to focus on attacks on American outposts abroad, I wonder if Cheney might also recall the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut that left 241 American servicemen dead, right before Reagan cut and ran.
Any of this ring a bell, Dick?
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 14, 2013
No doubt President Obama was deeply stung over the weekend to hear Dick Cheney criticize his new national security team. At a Wyoming Republican Party dinner, the former vice president briskly dismissed Obama’s choices as “dismal,” saying that America needs “good people” rather than the “second-rate” figures selected by the president, particularly Vietnam veteran and long-time U.S. senator Chuck Hagel, nominated by the president as Secretary of Defense.
For sage advice on security policy and personnel, after all, there is no living person whose approval could be more meaningful than Cheney. It is hard to imagine a record as profoundly impressive as that of the Bush-Cheney administration, back when everyone knew that he was really in charge of everything important — especially the war on terrorism, the war in Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan.
True, Cheney’s intelligence apparatus failed to capture or kill Osama bin Laden after 9/11 – indeed, failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks, despite ample warnings that began with Bill Clinton’s farewell message in January, 2001 and culminated in a blaring President’s Daily Brief from the CIA in August 2001. True, Cheney’s defense command allowed bin Laden and Mullah Omar to escape following the invasion of Afghanistan, while American and NATO troops slogged through that deadly conflict without a plausible goal or even an exit strategy. And true, the national security cabinet run by Cheney misled the nation into war against Iraq, on false premises, without adequate preparation or clear objectives, at a cost of many thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. And true, too, the ultimate result was to embarrass the United States repeatedly while increasing the regional power of the mullahs in Iran.
How can Obama presume to compare his own record with all of that?
Obviously Cheney’s success cannot be measured by achievement alone. That wouldn’t be fair at all. No, his success resides in the capacity to commit disastrous misconduct and malfeasance in office, and still be taken seriously by the serious people in Washington, D.C.
If only the president were sensible enough to appoint figures of the same caliber as Cheney’s choices in the Bush years – men such as Donald Rumsfeld, whose capacity to deceive the public remains unequaled a full decade after he first declared utter certainty about the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein’s huge, perilous cache of “weapons of mass destruction.”
“We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat,” explained Rummy somewhat inanely. He also assured us that the Iraqi people would warmly welcome U.S. troops, that the war would require a commitment of no more than six months, and that we wouldn’t need to send an overwhelming force of troops to prevail.
Like his old comrade and boss Cheney, Rumsfeld remained perfectly arrogant and absolutely rigid to the end and beyond, even as all his predictions and promises proved tragically hollow. Even when he came under attack by the neoconservative propaganda apparatus, led by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, for “glibly passing the buck” for administration failures, Rumsfeld never admitted any fault or responsibility. Leaving office in disgrace, he spent years composing a farrago of falsehoods to be published between hard covers, seeking to justify his reign of error — and topped the bestseller lists following a triumphant tour of television and radio.
Now there was a first-rate Defense Secretary. President Obama, please take note.
By: Joe Conason, the National Memo, February 11, 2013
Never afraid to go against the crowd, or the facts, Dick Cheney found Paul Ryan’s performance in Thursday night’s vice presidential debate dazzling.
Following the debate, Cheney declared that ”there is no question in my mind when I look at Joe Biden and Paul Ryan on the stage there last night, I think Paul Ryan’s got what it takes to take over as president. I don’t think Joe Biden does.”
How did George W. Bush’s number-two see what so many mere mortals missed?
Cheney pays serious attention to Ryan.
Indeed, he says: “I worship the ground that Paul Ryan walks on.”
And no one should doubt Cheney’s sincerity.
The former Republican vice president adores the Republican vice presidential candidate because Ryan is a fresh, young Cheney.
Cheney moved to Washington as soon as he could and became a political careerist, working as a Capitol Hill aide, a think-tank hanger on and then a member of Congress. Ryan followed the same insider trajectory.
Cheney’s a hyper-partisan Republican with a history of putting party loyalty above everything else. Ryan’s an equally loyal GOP mandarin.
Cheney’s a rigid ideologue who has never let reality get in the way of cockamamie neocon theories about where to start the next war. And Ryan’s every bit as much a neocon as Cheney.
Americans should reflect on Ryan’s performance in Thursday’s vice presidential debate with Cheney in mind. When they do, they will shudder.
In the 2000 vice presidential debate at Centre College in Kentucky, Cheney was asked if he favored using deadly force against Iraq. “We might have no other choice. We’ll have to see if that happens,” he replied. Why? He said he feared Saddam Hussein might have renewed his “capacity to build weapons of mass destruction.” “I certainly hope he’s not regenerating that kind of capability, but if he were, if in fact Saddam Hussein were taking steps to try to rebuild nuclear capability or weapons of mass destruction, you would have to give very serious consideration to military action to—to stop that activity.”
Two years later, Cheney was leading the drive to send US troops to invade Iraq. Three years later, US troops were bogged down in an occupation that would cost thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. No weapons of mass destruction were found and America’s international credibility took a hard hit.
Cheney didn’t care. He never apologized for leading America astray. And he never offered any indication that he had learned from the experience.
Thursday, in the 2012 vice presidential debate at Centre College, Ryan put a smile on the Cheney doctrine. But there was not a sliver of difference between the politics of the former vice president and the pretender to the vice presidency on questions of how to deal with foreign policy challenges in Afghanistan, Syria and Iran.
At the close of an extended discussion of Afghanistan, in which he repeatedly suggested that the Obama administration was insufficiently committed to fighting America’s longest war, Ryan actually suggested: “We are already sending Americans to do the job, but fewer of them. That’s the whole problem.”
On Iran, Ryan was so bombastic that an incredulous Biden finally asked: “What are you—you’re going to go to war? Is that what you want to do?”
Ryan did not answer in the affirmative Thursday night in Danville.
Neither did Cheney twelve years ago in Danville.
But Cheney signaled his inclinations in the 2000 vice presidential debate. And Ryan has signaled his intentions this year—confirming that the neoconservative fantasy, despite having been discredited by experience, dies hard on the neocon fringe of the Grand Old Party.
By: John Nichols, The Nation, October 14, 2012
With the U.S. war in Iraq coming to its overdue end, it’s worth noting those who got the policy wrong — and continue to ignore the error of their ways.
This week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), arguably Congress’ biggest cheerleader of this tragedy, delivered a lengthy tirade condemning President Obama for ending the conflict and bringing U.S. troops home, arguing, among other things, “All I will say is that, for three years, the president has been harvesting the successes of the very strategy that he consistently dismissed as a failure.”
That’s actually backwards. Obama didn’t dismiss the Status of Forces Agreement reached between the Bush administration and Iraqi officials in 2008; the Status of Forces Agreement reflected exactly what Obama was proposing at the time. Officials in both countries completely rejected the course McCain recommended at the time, and as we now know, that was the right move. It’s curious that McCain would forget this relevant detail.*
In any case, the bitter Republican senator added, “I believe history will judge this president’s leadership with the scorn and disdain it deserves.”
It’s not exactly surprising that good news and the end of a war would leave McCain in such a sour mood. In August, when Obama helped topple the Gadhafi regime in Libya, McCain thanked the British and French, but ignored the role of U.S. troops, and whined about Obama’s “failure” to run the mission the way McCain wanted.
But when it comes to Iraq in particular, it’s rather amazing McCain feels comfortable addressing the subject at all. I’m reminded of a Frank Rich column from a while back, noting McCain’s record of being consistently wrong about what’s alleged to be his signature issue.
To appreciate this crowd’s spotless record of failure, consider its noisiest standard-bearer, John McCain. He made every wrong judgment call that could be made after 9/11. It’s not just that he echoed the Bush administration’s constant innuendos that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda’s attack on America. Or that he hyped the faulty W.M.D. evidence to the hysterical extreme of fingering Iraq for the anthrax attacks in Washington. Or that he promised we would win the Iraq war “easily.” Or that he predicted that the Sunnis and the Shiites would “probably get along” in post-Saddam Iraq because there was “not a history of clashes” between them.
What’s more mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan and Pakistan. He routinely minimized or dismissed the growing threats in both countries over the past six years, lest they draw American resources away from his pet crusade in Iraq.
The smart move for McCain would be to quietly slink away, hoping desperately that Americans forget how spectacularly wrong he was about a bloody, brutal war. The fact that this guy instead has the temerity to pop off publicly about how outraged he is that U.S. troops are coming home is nothing short of pathetic.
Someone in this debate deserves scorn and disdain, but it’s not the president.
By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly Political Animal, December 18, 2011