It is not the case that Dick Cheney has been able to go everywhere in the media and complain about Obama’s policy on Iraq without push back. Most notably, on Fox News, Megyn Kelly said to Cheney, “You said there were no doubts that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. You said we would be greeted as liberators. You said the Iraq insurgency was in its last throes back in 2005. And you said after our intervention, extremists would have to ‘rethink their strategy of jihad.'” Cheney’s response in general has been to deny that he was wrong. But more generally, as Steve Benen noted, Cheney Doesn’t Want to Talk About “What Happened 11 or 12 Years Ago.”
I can hardly blame him. Of course, if you listen to him in full, you will notice that he does want to talk about what happened back then. That’s because he wants to blame Obama for what is going wrong in Iraq now and the subtext (and sometimes the actual text) is that things were great in Iraq a decade ago. So he’s being disingenuous when he claims that he doesn’t want to look back. But I think people like me are on solid ground when we ask why Cheney’s solution for problems in Iraq that worked so badly in the past ought to be considered good now.
What really bugs me about this is that Cheney actually can get away with saying, “I don’t want to look back.” And the reason that he can get away with it is that Obama and all the elites of the Democratic Party went along with this idea that we had to “look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” I’ve always been for a truth and reconciliation commission. You could pardon everyone. I don’t care about punishing these people; I really don’t see the good that it would do. But there would be enormous good that would come from the country admitting publicly to its many recent errors.
If that had happened, then there would be no problem with Cheney running everywhere talking about what to do in Iraq. Everyone would know that he was wrong and even criminal before. But he has a right to be heard. None of us are perfect. Make the case. But instead, we get this kind of pseudo argument, “Well, mistakes may have been made in the past but if we had just continued to make those mistakes for longer everything would have been great so Obama is all wrong.” It’s madness.
More and more, I see the United States like a dysfunctional family where mom is plastered all day and in denial about dad raping the daughter. Everyone knows what’s going on but no one talks about it and so it just continues on. And this problem doesn’t stop with Cheney on the Sunday political talk shows. It just continues to fester right through late 2017 when President Ted Cruz stages a preemptive strike against Ghana and local police departments are encouraged to use “enhanced interrogation techniques” against alleged cannabis smokers.
Meanwhile, the Republicans have spent the last six years licking their lips at the prospect of something Obama might do that they can look back on. To them, Obama’s grand gesture to forgiveness without admission of guilt was just seen as the pathetic move of a weak president. Another Jimmy Carter. It reminds me of the “real power” speech in Schindler’s List: power as mercy.
Obama missed an important point in Schindler’s theory. “A man stole something. He’s brought before the emperor. He throws himself down on the ground. He begs for mercy. He knows he’s going to die. And the emperor… pardons him.” Obama didn’t do that. Obama just closed his eyes and covered his ears and pretended that nothing happened. And the Republicans were right to think that was weakness. Mercy is not pretending that a sin was not committed. Mercy is forgiveness for sins committed. All he did was tell the Republicans that Democrats are too weak to look at reality — something that is an established fact among most Republicans anyway.
So why not Cheney on This Week saying, “But if we spend our time debating what happened 11 or 12 years ago, we’re going to miss the threat that is growing and that we do face”? Why not Cheney implicitly accusing President Obama of treason? When it comes to civilians in Afghanistan killed by drone, Obama has plenty of that old fashioned Amon Goeth style power: the power to kill randomly. But when it comes to Oskar Schindler style power as mercy, Obama has no power — at least when it comes to Republicans and Wall Street. He will just ignore new slights and lies the way he ignored old war crimes and financial malfeasance.