Sunday, September 12, 2004

Cheney Flip-Flops

From The American Prospect via the Faithful Correspondent:

As George W. Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney has carefully and successfully portrayed himself as a hawkish foreign-policy expert. Based exclusively on his recent public statements, one might believe Cheney has an unrivaled record supporting massive spending on defense, intelligence, and counterterrorism. That image has been augmented by the vice president’s attacks on Senator John Kerry for supposedly working to cut defense and block intelligence reform, for misunderstanding terrorism, and for taking inconsistent positions on Iraq.

But a look more deeply at Cheney’s career shows our current vice president either suffers from amnesia, self-hatred, or a little bit of both. It was Congressman Cheney, after all — not Senator Kerry — who contradicted his own party during the height of the Cold War and called for President Ronald Reagan to “take a whack” at defense spending. It was Defense Secretary Cheney — not Senator Kerry — who in 1992 blocked critical intelligence reforms and bragged to Congress about gutting defense spending.


Cheney excoriates Kerry for being “deeply irresponsible” on intelligence issues. As evidence, he cites a proposal in the 1990s by Kerry and Republican Senator Arlen Specter that would have slightly reduced intelligence funding.

First and foremost, Kerry’s proposal was small potatoes compared to GOP efforts to cut intelligence. Bush’s own nominee to head the CIA, Representative Porter Goss, authored legislation that would have slashed 20 percent of the budget for human intelligence two years after the first World Trade Center attack.

But more importantly, Kerry’s proposal was nothing compared to Cheney’s shortsighted effort to stifle intelligence reforms in the name of retaining his own personal power. As the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) reports, “Some of the most important intelligence reforms proposed by the 9-11 Commission, including the creation of a Director of National Intelligence (DNI), might have been adopted over a decade ago if not for the opposition of the Secretary of Defense at the time, Dick Cheney.”

Specifically, in a March 1992 letter to Congress, Cheney defended the status quo and objected to legislation that would have taken some of his powers away in order to create a new Director of National Intelligence. In the letter, Cheney wrote that intelligence reforms proposed by Congress “would seriously impair the effectiveness” of government and specifically opposed a “single, national intelligence ‘czar.’”

Cheney went beyond merely giving advice — he issued threats. He said he would recommend “that the President veto [the measure] if [it] were presented to him in its current form.” The proposal died. As a result of Cheney’s stance, FAS says, “we now face many of the same problems, and the same proposed solutions, more than a decade later.”

When asked why he believes Dick Cheney is such a valuable member of the Republican Party’s ticket in 2004, President Bush said simply “Dick Cheney can be President. Next.” It was a comment designed to instill total confidence in the vice president’s judgment. But if we are to take the Bush campaign’s rhetoric seriously, only one conclusion can be drawn: Dick Cheney, judged by his record, is the real threat to America’s national security.

To be fair, this is old news; this inconsistency on the part of Cheney and the Bush administration has been bouncing around the blogosphere since last winter. One little light of encouragement, though: this piece was picked up by CBS News and put on their website. But still…

As Bob Dole once wondered, “Where’s the outrage?”