I'm thinking of devoting every Monday to pointing out why Bill Kristol should not have a column at the New York Times. This Monday he defends Dick Cheney's legacy while comparing Cheney to Rod Blagojevich of Illinois. Now it's natural that Kristol would defend Cheney (who has about 60% disapproval ratings), because Kristol is chairman of the Project for the New American Century, which Dick Cheney helped found (with the help of such respectable people as Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby). Why bring Rod Blagojevich into all of this? Well, as Kristol explains, he is "the nation's most unpopular Democrat."
Let's break Kristol's defense of Cheney down point by point. We all know about Cheney's infamous "go fuck yourself" comment to Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont when Leahy tried to make an issue of Cheney's connection to Halliburton, the company picked to essentially rebuild Iraq when the government is done with it. According to Kristol, Cheney's remark "shows a well-considered sense of justice," because four years after Cheney uttered it, he defended his statement by saying that he though Senator Leahy deserved it. That's a "well-considered sense of justice"? Usually when someone tells you to go fuck yourself, they're just caught up in the heat of the moment and get so frustrated that they start uttering profanities. But to Kristol (who wholeheartedly championed for the Iraq War, so maybe his sense of what is "well-considered" is a bit askew), this is a valid response to a fight that, by accounts, it seems that Cheney himself started.
Kristol turns to "defending" Blagojevich after admitting that he had been defending Cheney. But his defense of Blagojevich is really a mocking of the scumbag (not that it is not deserved). But here is the problem: Kristol uses Blagojevich's shortcomings as a backdrop as to why Cheney is not that bad. That's like comparing a rotten apple and a rotten orange and trying to convince you to eat one over the other. Why not state facts as they are? They're both rotten.
Cheney has a long history of seedy business. In 1975 he brainstormed ways to curb the freedom of the press. After Seymour Hersh published a front-page article in the New York Times about covert Navy missions tapping into Soviet communications, Cheney came up with various ways to discourage similar future publications (clearly Cheney had not read New York Times Co. v. United States). But '75 is just the beginning. How can we forget Scooter Libby? I don't have time to get into everything, but suffice it to say that Cheney's history in public service is dubious (and highly secretive).
But the most damning of all Cheney indictments is his lust to go to war with Iraq. We all know how he claimed that there were ties between Saddam and Bin Laden (later proved false), and we all know that he was a leading cheerleader in the months leading up to Iraq (particularly his September 8, 2002 appearance on Meet the Press). Kristol was also a cheerleader for war in Iraq, saying in September 2002 that war in Iraq "could have terrifically good effects throughout the Middle East." He's made other highly erroneous statements about what to expect in Iraq. Why should this surprise us, though? Kristol has shared the same lust for a war in Iraq as Dick Cheney did. Hell, Kristol was calling for military action in Iraq back in 1998.
Yet people like Kristol and Cheney continue to defend themselves instead of admitting a mistake. Kristol attacks the left, and Obama specifically, for not believing in the surge, when the few people who opposed the war in the first place (Obama included) came from the left. It's back to the snake-bite analogy. Cheney has gone so far as to say that he would do Iraq over again back in 2006:
In summation, Kristol's roundabout way of defending Cheney is ridiculous. He talks about two political donkeys in his column, but sees the need to defend one and saracastically blast the other. Call a spade a spade, Mr. Kristol. There's a reason that Cheney and Blagojevich are so unpopular. Dick Cheney's legacy will be that of an architect of Vietnam Part II, a power-hungry, highly secretive Vice President who got away with a lot because he knew how to pull the levers of power in Washington. Peace.
Photos - Bill Kristol (New York Times), Bush and Cheney (CTV)