Sunday evening, President Obama responded in some detail to Dick Cheney’s claims that the security of all Americans depends upon imprisoning innocent people in depraved conditions outside of the rule of law. As Professor Jonathan Turley notes, the curious thing about Obama’s response is that it is so mild. Cheney’s statements are tantamount to an admission of his involvement in a serious criminal conspiracy. Moreover, Cheney actually brags about his criminality—he insists that he’s doing it because it’s good for us. When prosecutors decide which cases to charge, one concern is whether the crime has been committed in an open and notorious way. Cheney’s conduct on this score is off the charts. As Turley says, “This is the best defined and most public crime I’ve seen in my lifetime.” Cheney is effectively building the case for his own criminal prosecution. It needs to happen, preferably before another coronary incident robs us of the opportunity to bring a serious criminal to justice. Catch Turley’s discussion on MSNBC last night.
On the other hand, it’s clear why Obama was so eager to deliver his Cheney smackdown. Dick Cheney is the most unpopular figure to hold national office in modern times. Having narrowly escaped indictment repeatedly for various criminal enterprises, he continues to rake in public approval numbers that strain to reach double digits. For Obama, nothing could be better than to have Cheney appear on the public stage as the standard bearer for the Bush era, in an operation that seems more designed to block his indictment and prosecution than to build public support for the Republicans. The Hill reports that Republican Congressional leaders fully understand this dynamic and are eager for Cheney to simply disappear from the public stage:
Congressional Republicans are telling Dick Cheney to go back to his undisclosed location and leave them alone to rebuild the Republican Party without his input. Displeased with the former vice-president’s recent media appearances, Republican lawmakers say he’s hurting GOP efforts to reinvent itself after back-to-back electoral drubbings. The veep, who showed a penchant for secrecy during eight years in the White House,has popped up in media interviews to defend the Bush-Cheney record while suggesting that the country is not as safe under President Obama. Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) said, “He became so unpopular while he was in the White House that it would probably be better for us politically if he wouldn’t be so public…But he has the right to speak out since he’s a private citizen.”