During his speech at the American Enterprise Institute today, former vice president Dick Cheney continued to offer up his version of the Bush administration. Today Cheney said that the release of two memos will lead to the Bush administration, “will stand up well in history,” but the most striking part of his speech was his fond remembrance of America’s fear after 9/11.
Cheney remembered the good old days of the post-9/11 popularity of the Bush administration, “We could count on almost universal support back then, because everyone understood the environment we were in. We’d just been hit by a foreign enemy – leaving 3,000 Americans dead, more than we lost at Pearl Harbor. In Manhattan, we were staring at 16 acres of ashes. The Pentagon took a direct hit, and the Capitol or the White House were spared only by the Americans on Flight 93, who died bravely and defiantly.”
The former vice president also stuck to his belief in magic memos that will paint the Bush administration as heroes, “If Americans do get the chance to learn what our country was spared, it’ll do more than clarify the urgency and the rightness of enhanced interrogations in the years after 9/11. It may help us to stay focused on dangers that have not gone away. Instead of idly debating which political opponents to prosecute and punish, our attention will return to where it belongs – on the continuing threat of terrorist violence, and on stopping the men who are planning it.”
He also thinks that history will remember the Bush administration well, “For all the partisan anger that still lingers, our administration will stand up well in history – not despite our actions after 9/11, but because of them. And when I think about all that was to come during our administration and afterward – the recriminations, the second-guessing, the charges of “hubris” – my mind always goes back to that moment.”
While Cheney claimed once again to be defending the little guy, he was really defending himself and the Bush administration. His speech read like a laundry list of reasons and excuses the Bush administration used over the past 8 years.
There was criticism of The New York Times, distancing from Abu Ghraib , a defense of torture, lots of 9/11, WMD, and very little mention of Iraq. Despite all the media hype, there was nothing new in his speech. It was the same old tired defenses that are centered on the idea that Bush/Cheney kept America safe.
What happens to Cheney’s defense if Obama also keeps America safe? Cheney refused to see that there are more than two ways of looking at this issue. He only sees his way, and the opposition, but there are other possible outcomes, and if America doesn’t suffer another terrorist attack during the Obama administration, Cheney’s points will lose all validity.