By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Even George Will is appalled by Cheney

Thought you might enjoy George Will’s response on “This Week” when George Stephanopoulos asked him about Dick Cheney’s accusation that President Obama, by taking his time before deciding on a strategy in Afghanistan, is “dithering while America’s armed forces are in danger.” Here’s how Will began:

A bit of dithering might have been in order before we went into Iraq in pursuit of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. For a representative of the Bush administration to accuse someone of taking too much time is missing the point. We have much more to fear in this town from hasty than from slow government action.

Good stuff, although a few caveats are in order. First, though Will is a conservative, he’s not a neoconservative, and he’s been notably less enthusiastic about foreign adverturism over the years than his neobrethren. Second, he came out against the war in Afghanistan weeks ago. Third, Will has never been much taken with the Bush clan or its minions.

But still. With the war-mongering Laura Ingraham fulminating on the same set today (and when is she going to enlist?), it was heartening to hear a sane conservative call out Cheney’s posturing for what it is.

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  1. lkcape

    It is interesting, Dan, that the mission given McCrystal was given to him by Obama and is based on the “new” strategy Obama embraced in March.

    One wonders if McCrystal’s mission orders were well thought out in the first place.

    If Obama now doesn’t care for the advice of his military commander and the Chiefs-of-Staff to implement the Commander-in-Chief’s orders, then the President should replace the lot of them…and in a BIG HURRY!

    This whole affair stinks of domestic politics.

    This about the future, not the past….

    But you seem unable to notice that.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Ikcape: You mean the domestic politics of the United States? Is there something wrong with holding back when the public is telling you it doesn’t support a war in which its children will fight and die?

      Or do you mean the domestic politics of Afghanistan, where a corrupt regime is trying to extend its hold on power by stealing the election?

      Any president who didn’t take such factors into consideration would be, well, George W. Bush, goaded on by Dick Cheney.

  2. Will is a conservative, but I became a fan of his during the Reagan administration because he wasn’t afraid to criticize the president’s policies. He’s never been a patsy for anybody’s ideology or party. He’s an independent thinker. I’m not at all surprised by his position here.

  3. Michael Pahre

    These troop build-ups take quite some time to roll out once the decision is made. Even if a decision were to be made tomorrow, the troop levels would probably not reach the requested full complement until 3-6 months from now (probably six months based on the build-up in Iraq), which means sometime between February and May 2010.

    Very little in the way of major offensives can occur during the harsh winter-time in Afghanistan. Even if you could dump thousands of troops there within a month or two they would mostly sit in defensive positions until early Spring, anyway.

    So I don’t understand why anyone finds that a delay in a decision is so important. At this time of year, both a delay and no delay in making a decision are logistically equivalent in Afghanistan.

  4. mike_b1

    Haven’t we learned by now that no matter what Obama does, the neocons (and the conserva-cons) will say he should have done something else?

  5. Some off-the-top thoughts at midnight.

    George Will is probably irrelevant to anyone but old line Republicans, and IMHO, despised by the neocons and the like.

    What interests me is Cheney’s motive.

    If it is to re-establish his foreign policy creds, it seems to be having the opposite effect. The ensuing buzz just re-focus’ attention on the Bush Admins willing deceit of themselves and the citizenry in the promotion of the Iraq war.

    Is he trying to be the godfather of the political ambitions of the far right? Or is he trying to give cover to unify those at the right of moderates with the birther crowd.

    Or is Cheney slyly using criticism of Obama to pivot discussion to repay George W. Bush for failure to pardon Liddy and to somehow disassociate himself with his former “boss”.

  6. Neil

    Who is more boorish, Luara Ingraham of wing-nut radio fame or Peggy Noonan of the WSJ opinion page, who once wrote that thieves in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina should be shot on sight?

    I think George had enough of Laura and Michelle Malkin on their first visit.

  7. Newshound

    Cheney was horribly spooked by 911. He should of been. It was a horrible event, and a major violation to our country and its people.

    Sadam was afraid to tell the truth. It is a custom in that culture not to tell the truth – – – a custom too well and unacceptably adopted in our own government. As such, Sadam saw the need to be cagey because he needed the shade of doubt that he may have had weapons based on the concept that his country was sandwiched among foes.

    Even if we don’t have weapons in our own homes we like potential intruders to fear the possibility.

    Unfortunately, Iraq was the enemy of our enemy – Iran.

    The strategy deployed at an alarming time may always be in doubt. But there is no doubt about the boldness and allowed authority of a vice president.

  8. O-FISH-L

    “With the war-mongering Laura Ingraham fulminating on the same set today (and when is she going to enlist?)…”

    How original, Dan. The only non-veterans who may espouse an opinion on war are pacifists, I guess. Non-vets with other opinions must remain silent. Are the Muzzle Award nominations still open?

    Even the Messiah himself would be disqualified under your plan, calling Afghanistan the “right war” without a scintilla of military service to admit him to the comment pool.

  9. Donna Morris

    Well said, Dan Kennedy.

  10. I have been loathe to agree with George Will since he prepped Reagan for the Carter debate and then proclaimed Reagan the winner as an “objective” analyst. Still, he’s spot-on here. I recall a Christopher Lee movie, “Dracula A.D. ’72” in which teens callously summoned up Dracula by reading an incantation in a magic spell book. The news media is the same way by always giving Cheney an open mike to afford him the chance to rehabilitate his failed policies (didn’t the Veep nix a request for 30k more troops in Afghanistan?). Maybe Cheney will disappear after Halloween, but if he doesn’t, the press needs to call him out on his contradictory statements and fear-mongering.

  11. rozzie02131

    Sunday morning talk shows think nothing of putting on a right wing bomb-thrower like Laura Ingraham. That’s fine for livening up the discussion. But for the liberal side, it’s almost always moderates from newspaper columns, think-tanks, or PBS. If Ingraham is acceptable, they should bring on fiery leftists like Mike Malloy, Bill Maher, Randi Rhodes, or Michael Moore. I’m getting tired of watching these shows where the emotional impact of the round table leans to the right.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Rozzie: One reason I switched from “Meet the Press” to “This Week” is that the latter is much better in dealing with the problem you mention. I’ll forgive ABC for an occasional Laura Ingraham given that Paul Krugman and Donna Brazile are regulars. Even yesterday, they had John Podesta.

  12. lafcadio mullarkey

    Newshound, “Sadam was afraid to tell the truth. It is a custom in that culture not to tell the truth…”

    What culture is that, exactly?

  13. mike_b1

    Paul Krugman is an MIT Ph.D., a professor at Princeton, and a Nobel Prize winner.

    Laura Ingraham is a Fox talk show host and serial flipflopper (I’m engaged! I’m not! I hate gays! I don’t!)

    I don’t think there’s any basis for comparison.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Mike_b1: Agreed. I am referring only to ABC’s willingness to put real liberals on “This Week.” David Gregory’s idea of a real liberal is Olympia Snowe.

  14. Dunque

    So, Dan, where’s the discussion – given your passion for the press – of the White House’s aggressive campaign to have Fox News pushed aside? No matter what your political leaning this is a disturbing development. Certainly got Jake Tapper’s attention. Instead we’re treated to a not unexpected dismissal of Dick Cheney by George Will?

    • Dan Kennedy

      Dunque: Here you go. Been buried with actual work, and have had little time to blog. But this is where I’d go with it if I had time. Hardly disturbing, but it may be stupid — too soon to tell.

  15. Treg

    “This whole affair stinks of domestic politics.”

    “One wonders if McCrystal’s mission orders were well thought out in the first place.”

    Seriously – were those lines written by a 10th-grader, or what?

  16. Treg

    Oh, Fox “News” is disturbing alright.

  17. lkcape

    Treg… resorting to insults again? It’s typical of one with little or no argument to make.

    And, sorry, Dan and Treg, I wouldn’t trust either of you in a leadership position when lives are at stake.

    You don’t send people off to do a job and then second guess them…. particularly for domestic political reasons.

    …But that is the curse that the Liberal bears.

  18. Dunque

    Dan, from your comments it seems as if your notion of a free press is conditioned upon your agreement w/their content. Seems counter to the traditional notion of free press.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Dunque: Care to provide one example of anything I’ve ever written that suggests I am less than stalwart in defense of a free press? Be specific, please. This should be good.

  19. InsiderNegot


    “You don’t send people off to do a job and then second guess them…. particularly for domestic political reasons.”

    Second guessing the policy is not the same as second guessing those who carry out the policy.

    This tired Republican argument that in order to support the troops you can not question and must support the war is rediculous.

  20. Dunque

    Dan – From your post…

    “For Carlson to cite Van Jones, a minor story, while ignoring Fox News’ indulgence of birthers, tea-partiers and racists is disingenuous at best.”

    Whether or not you agree w/the focus of their broadcasts – and I would submit that your summation is a very narrow distillation of their content – should not preclude your concern regarding the White House’s efforts to decide what constitutes a news organization.

    It certainly caught Jake Tapper’s attention.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Dunque: The White House can speak to or ignore whomever it likes. What on earth does that have to do with a free press?

  21. Newshound

    lafcadio mullarkey – it is the Not-To-Tell-The-Truth culture.

    Sadam was a bad, untrustworthy, not-always-believable character.

  22. lkcape

    InsiderNegot… You join Dan and Treg on the list of those that I would not trust when lives are at stake…

    You all keep forgetting that Obama’s last great winning strategy for Afghanistan was promulgated in March. And McCrystal is the commander designated to carry out that strategy Let him do the job that he was ordered to do.

    Just because the liberal wingnuts don’t like the Afghan war is no reason to leave the military with a mission they are unable to fulfill because the weenies wanting to be re-elected are running scared.

    You fight a war to win or you get out.

    Oh, and BTW…. There were a lot of liberal wingnuts voting for the war in Afganistan… Senate:

    House of Representatives: 420 Ayes, 1 Nay and 10 Not Voting

    Senate: 98 Ayes, 0 Nays, 2 Present/Not Voting

  23. Neil

    If I were Obama I wound’t do FoxNews any favors either. Fu@% em, they’ve been extreme and dishonest since Iowa.

    Apparently, pool reporting is different, according to Savannah Guthrie, but as for the rest of it, good for Dunn.

    While FoxNews does have some stand-up journalists like Shep Smith they also have too many company guys, and by company guys I mean guys acting like GOP campaign operatives, with dirty tricks and all. It’s clear they are more interested in getting scalps than telling the truth. Watch this video.

    FoxNews promotes anti-government protests such as 9.12 and teabag parties. There is a line between reporting and advocacy and FoxNews crosses it systematically and always to support the conservative point of view. Isn’t it obvious that are acting more like a political media operation than a news network?

  24. Dunque

    First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

  25. Dunque

    Quoting Neil – “FoxNews promotes anti-government protests…”

    Gee, Neil, dissent used to be patriotic. As recently as last year. What happened?

  26. lkcape

    When Obama shows up in a red shirt and speechifies for four hours a week, we’ll know that he’s crossed over.

    Hmmmmm…. He has the four hours a week… we now need only the red shirt!

  27. Dunwich

    Will doesn’t impress me. Why do people get credit for stating the obvious?
    Our Afgan policy should center on the most effective ways to eliminate the enemy. I’m sorry about what the country was and is and I’d like to help them. But it’s not our problem. Tracking and killing terrorists are our problems.

  28. mike_b1

    Dunque is being disingenuous. This isn’t about dissent. This is about Fox News not living up to, well, anyone’s notion of what “fair and balanced” would be. Fox exists to take potshots at the left. Nothing more, nothing less.

  29. lkcape

    Dunwich, the left is having real difficulty in defining what “eliminating the enemy” really means, and they are choking on both the choices and the costs.

  30. I would say that FoxNews promotes anti-Obama protests…

    They didn’t promote anti-Bush protests.

  31. mike_b1

    Am wondering what lkcape thinks America should do with regard to Afghanistan, Iraq and world policy in general.

    I’m sure we’re in for a real treat.

  32. lkcape

    Go in to win or get out.

    My preference would be to go in to win.

    Mr. B1? Are you willing to go on record or are you going to equivocate like most of the other liberals offering extensive opinions?

    Either way, I do not believe that it is honorable to put the soldier’s lives at stake just so that the political leadership can stick their finger up to see which way the domestic political wind is blowing.

    Hard choices are hard…Make them and move on.

  33. mike_b1

    Go in to win or get out? That’s a plan? How many soldiers do you send in? Do you double down, if necessary? Triple down? Do you spend $100 billion a year to “win?” How many years are you willing to commit? How many lives?

    Is flexibility and consideration of new data a sign of weakness?

  34. lkcape

    It is when your command structure can’t move fast enough implement a plan before you have to reconsider again.

    I guess B1, that you don’t agree with your messiah’s statement that Afganistan is the “good” war.

    Again a reminder: The determination to GO to war was approved by a total vote of Congress of 518 to 1 with 12 not voting.

    But who’s counting as long as you can blame someone else?


  35. mike_b1

    You’re about six years behind, my friend. You’re stuck on a vote that happened years ago while the rest of the nation is looking at the future. (It’s one big reason the GOP is a dead party, btw.) And we know the war vote was based on faulty information (read: GOP lies) anyway.

    But to the main point: This is the GOP’s war. It was GOP policy, dating back to Nixon and fostered by Bush I and II and in particular, Reagan, toward the Middle East that got us into this mess. And, as usual, it’s left to the Democrats to try to fix it.


  36. lkcape

    B1, you clearly are delusional. It is America’s war, and it was a joint effort.

    Always was, always will be.

    Actually, these problems go back to the English in the early 1900s, Wilson in 1918, and Churchill and Roosevelt during the Second World War. Empire and division of spoils. And the collective “free world”; i.e., the United Nations, in 1947 voting for the partition of Palestine.

    It is naive, me boy, to think that by perpetually saying that the war was ‘s fault that you will get any closer a solution to the problems presented.

    The point is not where will we go from 8 years ago, but rather where will we go from here. You fight the war you have, not the war you want.

    I notice that you are studiously avoiding stating your preferences.

    But I expect from liberals who face hard choices and can’t bring themselves to stop drifting whichever way the wind blows.

  37. mike_b1

    So now you are calling me “boy?” Nice racial slur.

    Since war in Afghanistan has been going on literally for centuries, it seems clear no one can truly “win.” After all, winning means what exactly? There’s no land worth having. There’s no natural resources worth owning. It’s not a key logistical spot for transcontinental trade.

    But…we fight that war because 1) it keeps Al Queda on the run, and by disrupting them it improves — though doesn’t eliminate — the odds that group can cause problems here in the US, and 2) because Afghan farmers are the source of almost the entire world crop of opium, and in case you haven’t noticed, the US is the world’s largest consumer of heroin. So by maintaining a local presence, we have the opportunity to disrupt a drug trade that costs us far more lives than 9/11 did.

    So, I would say maintaining a small force there simply to disrupt the villians’ activities is worth the price.

    You, on the other hand, are too narrow to be capable of thinking of such things. And that’s why the GOP has no party and no followers.

  38. lkcape

    Irish, me boy, Irish.

    Not everything is black and white or, should I say, black vs white

    And you obviously neither lived through or experienced the war in Vietnam…

    Those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to relive it.

  39. mike_b1

    “Those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to relive it.”

    Ironically enough, you seemed to have missed that lesson. Where were you when Bush was saying we had to invade Afghanistan? Polishing your brown leather boots?

  40. lkcape

    Wow, still living in the past.

    The war is in the NOW, the solutions must for the NOW.

    Does it really matter for the prosecution of the war what was being said in September and October 2001?

    The entire nation showed its overwhelming support then. Can you really blame a single individual?

    And where were you in 2001, still in grade school?

  41. mike_b1

    Hmmm…first you call me “boy,” then you call me young. Am I supposed to be insulted? My wife treats people with memory problems and guess what — they are ALL old. So which do you think I’d rather be?

    Anyway, since it’s clear you are just spitting out whatever bile you can and aren’t interested in addressing the issues, I’m going to move on now.

  42. lkcape

    Welcome to .org!

    And not many people here really care where your wife works!

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