Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly hosted former Vice President Dick Cheney along with Liz Cheney last night to discuss reactions to their father/daughter Wall Street Journal op/ed in which the Cheneys wondered out loud why President Obama hasn't done jack squat to clean up Cheney's colossal mess in Iraq.
The segment is being widely circulated in social media as one of those rare occasions when a non-Shepard-Smith Fox News host asked a prominent Republican salient, hardball questions. But it really wasn't like that at all. Megyn Kelly merely repeated a few items based on material written by those whom she described as "the president's defenders," which is code for alerting Fox News viewers that this information is from The Enemy and therefore isn't to be trusted. In fact, the final several questions from Kelly were direct hits against President Obama for the benefit of promoting the Cheneys' new "Alliance For A Strong America" organization, and its mission to attack the administration.
Kelly aside, even though Dick Cheney's heart is held in place with bungee cords and paper-clips, his balls seem to be functioning just as mightily as ever because in the face of an onslaught of fact-checking he repeated and even elaborated upon some of the biggest lies and attacks from his WSJ editorial.
Right off the bat, Cheney said:
I think we went into Iraq for very good reasons.
Fine, but all of those reasons turned out to be wrong. Even the "democracy" reason, since Iraq appears to less and less a self-determining, sovereign democracy and more of a hot-swappable U.S. puppet government.
After 9/11, we were concerned about a follow-up attack, it would involve not just airline tickets and box cutters, but something far deadlier, perhaps even a nuclear weapon.
Okay, "just" box cutters and airline tickets? How about passenger airplanes filled with jet fuel used as missiles and aimed at the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon and unsuccessfully at the U.S. Capitol. Also, after all this time, Cheney tried again to shamelessly sell a connection between Saddam, al-Qaeda and 9/11. It's been roughly a decade since that connection was debunked, yet there he was on national television doing it again. Breaking down that sentence, Cheney believed nuclear weapons were being developed by Iraq and, to this day, he wants you to think that had it not been for his war, Iraq might've deployed al-Qaeda terrorists with those weapons for use in another attack on the U.S. This is a big lie.
Next, talk about deflecting the blame:
Saddam Hussein had a track record that nearly everybody agreed to. We had an overwhelming vote of approval from the Congress. More votes for the action than we'd had in Desert Storm years prior. Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi spoke to the difficulties of the intelligence that all of us saw with respect to the threat that Saddam Hussein represented. It would have been irresponsible for us not to act.
Several things here.
First of all, so much for the "Party of Personal Responsibility."
Secondly, yes, President Clinton was wrong about weapons of mass destruction; so was then-Sen. Hillary Clinton; so was then-Sen. Joe Biden and so were all of the other Democrats who voted to endorse the Bush/Cheney Iraq War. But bear in mind several things, primarily that this was Bush/Cheney's war. The Clintons, while in the White House, didn't pursue regime change via an invasion and occupation of Iraq, nor did they construct the flimsy mash-up of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Likewise, Congress didn't spark the idea either. It was Bush and Cheney. Moreover, as soon as it became clear that the war had been botched and that the administration's pretexts had evaporated, most of the Democrats who initially supported the war rescinded their support and admitted they were wrong. They're certainly not on Fox News today chastising Obama for leaving.
And finally, it was absolutely irresponsible to act. Containing and disrupting a fledgling nuclear weapons program doesn't require invasion, regime change and nation building. The other justification had to do with al-Qaeda, and it was completely and incontrovertibly reckless to act upon that particular charge. So, what happened as a result? Cheney's invasion and occupation created al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which has since become ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which is currently marching on Baghdad. Prior to the invasion, there was zero al-Qaeda presence in Iraq.
Moving on, Kelly hit Cheney with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed by President Bush in late 2008, which called for the removal of all U.S. soldiers from Iraq by the end of 2011. She added that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to allow a so-called "stay behind force," to which Cheney responded:
No, that's not quite accurate, Megyn. What happened was our generals recommended a stay-behind-force from 14,000 to 18,000. The White House rejected it. So the military came back with the recommendation of 10,000. The White House rejected it. They took it all the way down to 3,000. I think by the time they got to the level, the Iraqis looked at it and believed that we weren't serious.
Yes, it absolutely is accurate. Kelly, even though she was merely repeating what "the president's defenders say," deserves credit for at least bringing it up. The fact remains that the Iraqi government refused to give U.S. soldiers immunity from prosecution in the Iraqi judicial system. No commander-in-chief in his right mind would ever keep soldiers in a nation where they could be arrested and prosecuted by the host government. Never, never, never. So naturally the White House rejected any and all recommendations in the absence of prosecutorial immunity. The real question is this: why does Cheney support risking these kinds of prosecutions? Perhaps Kelly should've asked him, since this was apparently supposed to be a challenging interview.
Speaking of challenging questions, Kelly asked the Cheneys whether President Obama is "dangerous," to which, Cheney replied:
I think there's no question. I think that he is unique in terms of a president who is sitting in the Oval Office who has made very clear that his desire is to weaken the nation.
Is it me? Am I the only one who missed the speech in which the president made it clear we wants to weaken the nation? Let's talk about a president who weakened the nation, shall we? Let's talk about a president who squandered a budget surplus and, by the time he left office, had turned a surplus into a $1.4 trillion deficit in the midst of a financial collapse and a crippling recession. Let's talk about a president who left office with 800,000 jobs lost in a single month alone. Let's talk about a president who ignored repeated CIA warnings about an impending al-Qaeda attack on U.S. soil, leading to 4,000 murdered Americans. Let's talk about a president who allowed Osama Bin Laden to escape because Cheney wanted to invade and occupy Iraq on pretexts that turned out to be false, leading to the rise of AQI and eventually the formation of ISIS. Let's talk about nearly 40,000 American casualties in that war. Let's talk about a president whose foreign policy made it nearly impossible for the U.S. to intervene militarily in the foreseeable future, even when it's absolutely dire that we do so.
No, Dick Cheney doesn't get to lecture this or any president of either party about weakness. As far as we're concerned, Cheney's administration did so much damage to the United States that it utterly redefined what it means for a chief executive to weaken a nation, with untold repercussions and blowback that will surely resonate deeply into the future.
(Thanks to The Daily Banter's Tommy Christopher for the additional reporting.)