The Big Question: Did Cheney go too far?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's Question:

Was it appropriate or out of line for Dick Cheney to accuse President Obama of "dithering" on Afghanistan?

Rep. Mike McMahon (D-N.Y.) said:

It’s certainly inappropriate; especially when Dick Cheney comes from the school of politicians who cry “unpatriotic foul” anytime anyone ever criticized the Bush policy, especially with regards to Iraq or Afghanistan. For a former vice president to use that type of word, and criticize the president in that type of forum is certainly in my opinion unpatriotic.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) said:

I actually gave a one minute speech today where I stated that I agreed with Vice President Cheney, that the president is dithering which is particularly surprising because the president made it very clear when he ran last year the importance of providing sufficient resources in Afghanistan, and I specifically quoted his statements during the campaign and I quoted specifically from the acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention where he identified that it was necessary to provide sufficient forces to defeat the terrorists. And of course then in March, I sent out a news release commending the president for his strategy and his selection of General McChrystal and the good work of General Petraeus and also I have cited the speech on August 17th to the VFW Convention in Phoenix where the president reiterated that it was so important and I agreed with him to successfully achieve victory in Afghanistan. So I believe that Vice President Cheney was absolutely correct, and I say this, that it shouldn’t be that partisan and we should be, Democrats and Republicans, agreeing on this issue and the decision should be made. By delaying this decision our troops are at risk and it is giving false encouragement to people who appose this country.


Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit said:

One assumes that Cheney would rather retire quietly, but that he feels the Administration is dropping the ball on something very important. Etiquette has generally held, pace Jimmy Carter, that former Presidents don't criticize their successors in public. But Cheney is a former Vice President, to whom no such etiquette applies. (Until recently, it was not needed, as no one cared what former Vice Presidents thought, anyway...)

Cheney has been remarkably successful in pressuring the Obama Administration with his earlier pronouncements on the war, so he probably thought it was worth trying again. More interesting to me is the Administration's reflexive counterattack, which seems -- like its attacks on other critics -- to be counterproductive. The White House's message-control is poor, and it's clearly hurting Obama in the polls and with moderate Democrats. Unlike Cheney, who never pretended to be anything but what he is, Obama ran as a post-partisan transcendent figure, and getting down-and-dirty with critics undermines that in a way that does more big-picture damage than can be justified by any short-term benefit. It seems, however, that they can't help themselves.

Paul Kawika Martin, Organizing, Political and PAC Director of Peace Action, said:

To criticize an eleven-month old Obama Administration for taking time to make major decisions on the nearly impossible situation in the Afghanistan region is absurd.  The only thing more absurd is that it comes from the Bush Administration who caused the problems and had nearly eight years to fix.

Clearly Cheney's major priorities this year have been to defend and white wash the failed policies of the Bush administration, take political jabs at the current Administration and continue his legacy through his daughter.

Peace Action was one of the few NGOs opposing invading Afghanistan.  Like Iraq, the Bush administration had no long-term plan for Afghanistan.  They funded with countless millions in cash warlords to push out Taliban.  Some of these warlords are now in the Karzai administration causing problems.  Some of the Aid under Bush administration for Afghanistan came in the form of "photo ops," like CAT scan machine sent to hospitals with minimal electricity, no technicians and no one to install them, but the picture of it played well back in the states.

While the Obama administration is seeming more thoughtful and saying that Afghanistan needs a political solution not military one.  Most of the funding and action has been military this year.  In my recent trip there, it was clear to me that sending 40,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan will fail to substantially increase security, to stop violent extremists and to make Americans safer.  Instead, U.S. and NATO forces need to stop air and Predator drone strikes, arbitrary arrests and detentions and other actions that kill, injure or terrorize innocent civilians and create recruits for the Taliban. The billions of dollars it would cost to send troops would pay more security dividends invested into Afghanistan to provide its populous with physical, economic and food security.

If the Bush administration would have taken some of these actions years ago instead of taking us to the Iraq quagmire, perhaps we would be in a better situation in that unstable region of the world.

John F. McManus, President of the John Birch Society, said:

Dick Cheney's comments about Afghanistan deserve severe criticism, not because they were directed at Mr. Obama, but because they presume that the U.S.-led effort in that nation is proper in the first place.  As a former Marine Corps officer, I know that fighting a war against a tactic (such as terrorism) is about as complete reversal of the role of the military as could be imagined.  Had our nation fought against a tactic in WW II, we'd likely still be at it.  Also, the U.S. Constitution clearly requires a congressional declaration of war before sending forces into battle.  There has been none for this war and none for the war in Iraq.  If there had been declarations, there would have been a clear objective and both wars would have long been over. The preemptive war against Iraq, with Cheney leading the charge for it, should never have been launched in the first place.  Without such declarations of war, Congress and several administrations have betrayed those who serve.  Every day I read with deep anguish about casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq.