(Bruce Redd) – No matter what we think we know, when we hear the name Cheney, one of the thoughts that comes to mind, and which originates with his political detractors, is of the evil genius behind the curtain manipulating the President and his policies.
The book In My Time, however, reveals a different persona, a committed, consistent conservative who was given great responsibilities by the President; a man who time and again, through thoughtful and persistent persuasion, had a major impact, not only on executive branch policies, but on the policies that have helped keep America safe. The daily, mundane, mind-numbing receipt of floods of information, much of which is ambiguous or conflicting, and the analyzing and measuring of its likely effects on the citizenry and country and then conveying appropriate responses is enough to make one thankful he is not the Vice President. But this is a job that Mr. Cheney did for eight years and we are all better off for it.
His training for the V.P. job began early on. One instance of his approach to problems is illustrated by his question, as Secretary of Defense under Pres. George H.W. Bush, “How many warheads are going to hitKiev under the current plan?” This was a question no one had asked before and which eventually resulted in a mutual reduction of bothAmerica’s and the Soviet’s nuclear arsenals.
While acting as Bush the younger’s Vice President, Mr. Cheney consistently encouraged policies that helped keepAmericasafe, such as the President’s decision to abrogate an anti-ballistic missile treaty withRussia. This allowed theUnited Statesto “develop and deploy defenses against missiles,” which had become an urgent issue because of missile development programs in various rogue states.
Following 9-11, the President enjoyed high ratings and benevolent press coverage. All this gradually changed with increased Democrat hostility towards the President personally and to his policies. It reached a new level during a prolonged, bitter and violent pacification process inIraq. Sectarian and tribal violence inIraqwas nothing new, but it had been suppressed during Saddam Hussein’s bloody and violent reign. The violence began again after Hussein’s overthrow, and this time it was directed at American forces as well as Iraqi ethnic and tribal groups, religious sects and political parties. It was disgustingly violent and involved not only al Qaeda, but religious and political groups as well as the opportunistic and repressive regimes inSyriaandIran. The obstacles to American policy were formidable and too many seemed insurmountable.
We now know the outcome. However, had it not been for Generals Petraeus, Odierno and McChrystal, Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, America’s Special Forces and an Administration determined to win, the outcome, most certainly, would have been utter and ultimate defeat; exactly what Senators Reid and Kerry and even Colin Powell, former Secretary of Defense had previously claimed was already a fact. Mr. Cheney gives us facts about the decisions, dissensions, doubts and sometimes brilliance of all the important actors in this trying time. Mr. Cheney’s chapter 14 entitled The Search is worth the price of the book.
The issue of the WMDs that were never found will always be linked with theIraqwar. Opposition to the war, which in the beginning was almost non-existent, later morphed into a potent weapon sed for political purposes by the Democratic Party. It usually involved a claim that President Bush lied about the existence of WMDs.
So if Bush lied about their existence andIraq’s programs to obtain them, did anyone else do the same? Here’s a partial list: Tony Blair the British Prime Minister, former National Security Advisor Brent Scrowcroft, CIA Director George Tenet, Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Hans Blix head of the UN’s WMD Inspection Unit. The longer list would include almost every Democrat in the Senate and most Democrats in the House.
The Democrat politicians and many of the rank-and-file suffered from selective amnesia when it came to their own assertions about the existence of WMDs. Many of us remember Sen. Al Gore’s spurious and deceitful claim that “he (President Bush) played upon our fears” about the existence of WMDs while ignoring his own previous public statements that Saddam Hussein, indeed, had such weapons.
Mr. Cheney chronicles his own disappointments in office, including one relating to the handling (or mishandling) ofNorth Korea’s nuclear program. The question has always been, whyNorth Koreawas allowed to deceive us, to extort concessions from us and then to deceive us further, admit the deceit and then be rewarded for it.
The answer is complicated and must ultimately be laid at the feet of the President, but it seems that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s failure of judgment is also partially to blame. Time and again she was confronted with conclusive evidence ofNorth Korea’s nuclear program, its nuclear proliferation and its broken and empty promises. Time and again, Sec. Rice was willing to overlook that evidence in a futile attempt to obtain even another promise of future good behavior.
What ultimately emerges, and what history will confirm, is a picture of an honorable man, a family man, a man of great conviction, eminently suited for the time following the attacks on September 11, 2001 and a man egregiously maligned by his political opponents because of his effectiveness in office and his steadfast opposition to their own failures of duty to protect their country.