Dick Cheney


It’s hard to believe the end of the decade is already upon us.

Have 10 years really passed since people worried about Y2K computer problems and how the country would heal in the aftermath of closest presidential election in U.S. history? Has it really been a decade since the last New Year’s Eve celebration free of the terrorism worries that come with living in the post-9/11 world?

I remember New Year’s Eve 1999 well. It was the first time I rang in the new year in La Salle County, and I spent much of it watching the late Peter Jennings anchor ABC’s coverage of “Millennium Eve.” Jennings was on air for 25 consecutive hours, and I recall watching much of it. By the time the night was over, Jennings likely was passed out from exhaustion, and I found myself quietly singing Bruce Springsteen’s “My Hometown” in an attempt to coax the party host’s toddler daughter back to sleep.

Yeah, it was an interesting night, and all the more memorable for it.

So much has happened since then. The Bush-Cheney presidency came and went, with its highest and lowest points arguably both involving warfare. Bush did an excellent job of rallying the country after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but stained his legacy by following that up with the increasingly unpopular Iraq war. (The Afghanistan war seemed like the right post-9/11 move, but unfortunately, Bush switched the military’s main focus to Iraq before the job was finished there.)

Closer to home, Illinois went through two governors who are unforgettable for the wrong reasons. George Ryan was sentenced in 2006 to six years in prison for racketeering, bribery, extortion, money laundering and tax fraud crimes committed while he was secretary of state. More recently, Rod Blagojevich was arrested and indicted on abuse-of-power charges, impeached and removed from office, and continues to be a national embarrassment to the Land of Lincoln.

At least Illinois made up for its political woes by delivering the country its first African-American president. Barack Obama galvanized voters in 2008 and faced numerous challenges throughout the first year of his presidency.

Tiger Woods began the decade by becoming the youngest player to win one of golf’s four major championships. He ended the decade by becoming the butt of many jokes after his wife caught him playing on other courses.

There were several notable natural disasters mid-decade: the tsunami that killed more than 225,000 people; Hurricane Katrina, which decimated parts of Louisiana and Mississippi; and a 2005 earthquake that killed 80,000 people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.

Of course, these things are just the tip of the iceberg that was the first decade of the third millennium. It will be interesting to look back to this moment of time 10 years from now. If there is anything this past decade has proven, it is this: You can expect the unexpected to happen.

I generally try to ignore what Dick Cheney says these days, but I took notice Sunday when the former vice president said Colin Powell is no longer a Republican.

Here’s the gist of the matter, as reported on CNN’s Web site:

Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Cheney was asked about a dispute between Powell — who was secretary of state in the Bush-Cheney administration — and radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh over the role each plays in the GOP.

“My take on it was Colin had already left the party,” Cheney said. “I didn’t know he was still a Republican.”

The former vice president noted that Powell endorsed then-Sen. Barack Obama in last year’s presidential race. “I assume that that’s some indication of his loyalty and his interests,” Cheney said.

Powell, in a speech last week, said “the Republican Party is in deep trouble” and said the GOP would be better off without Limbaugh, according to a report by the National Journal.

Limbaugh fired back on his program Wednesday, saying, “What Colin Powell needs to do is close the loop and become a Democrat instead of claiming to be a Republican interested in reforming the Republican Party.”

So Cheney and Limbaugh consider Powell a Democrat because he endorsed Obama for president? Does that mean they consider Joe Lieberman a Republican because he endorsed John McCain for president?

Interestingly, Cheney wants to boot Powell from the GOP but claims “there is room for moderates in the Republican Party” :

But, he added, “I don’t think the party ought to move dramatically to the left, for example, in order to try to redefine its base. We are what we are. We’re Republicans. We have certain things we believe in. And maintaining our loyalty and commitment to those principles is vital to our success.”

The next journalist who interviews Cheney needs to ask him for some examples of acceptable GOP moderates, because I’m curious who would be on that list.

Just as both major political parties have done when down in the past, the Republican Party will regain prominence — but first Republican leaders need to embrace moderate voices within their party. Unfortunately for them, tolerance of GOP moderates is hard to envision when vocal partisans like Cheney and Limbaugh are quick to expel any Republican who dares to disagree with them. The Republican Party needs vocal leaders who are more tolerant of true GOP moderates, and those vocal leaders must be able to out-shout Limbaugh and company. Until that time comes, it is likely the GOP will continue to struggle for relevancy on a national level.

Say what you will about George W. Bush and his presidential policies, but he earned back an ounce of my respect after saying he won’t put politics above country by criticizing President Obama.

“I’m not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in the arena. He deserves my silence,” said Bush, speaking Tuesday in Calgary, Canada.

“I love my country a lot more than I love politics,” Bush said. “I think it is essential that he be helped in office.”

Spoken respectfully like a former president who understands the enormous responsibilities of his successor. Too bad Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, hasn’t adopted the same approach to life after the White House.

Cheney took to the airwaves Sunday to criticize Obama and blame the recession on Democrats and the rest of the world. To his credit, CNN’s John King asked Cheney why people should listen to him:

KING: There are people I assume watching this interview right now, and people in this town who would say, why should we listen to you? And they would say that because of the context of the Bush administration numbers.

They would say, you know, what did you do when you were in charge? And they have some numbers to back up their case. And I want to show some to our viewers.

 When you came to office, the unemployment rate in the country was 4.2 percent, when you left it was 7.6 percent. The number of Americans in poverty when you arrived, just under 33 million, over 37 million when you left. The number without health insurance, a little over 41 million when you came, over 45 million approaching 46 million when you left.

And you came with a budget surplus of $128 billion and in the final year, the budget deficit was a record $1.3 trillion. So what would you say to someone out there watching this who is saying, why should they listen to you?

CHENEY: Well, there are all kinds of arguments to be made on that point. But there’s something that is more important than the specific numbers you’re talking about, and that had to be priority for our administration.

Eight months after we arrived, we had 9/11. We had 3,000 Americans killed one morning by al Qaeda terrorists here in the United States. We immediately had to go into the wartime mode. We ended up with two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of that is still very active. We had major problems with respect to things like Katrina, for example. All of these things required us to spend money that we had not originally planned to spend, or weren’t originally part of the budget.

Stuff happens. And the administration has to be able to respond to that, and we did.

I think it’s also — you talked the unemployment…

KING: But you’re a conservative administration, spending more than $1 trillion.

(CROSSTALK)

CHENEY: We always said — I always said that wartime scenario is cause for an exception in terms of spending. It was appropriate in World War II, certainly, and I think it’s appropriate now.

Not surprisingly, Cheney uses the 9/11 terrorist attacks as an excuse for everything that went wrong during the Bush administration. And I’m sure the Obama administration will use the recession as its scapegoat. But the difference between the two cases is this: The recession is a legitimate, inherited excuse for government spending, whereas 9/11 didn’t force our country into the Iraq war — unless you believe the false spin that Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to the terrorist attacks. And 9/11 certainly didn’t cause the recession — wartime spending is supposed to help employment figures, not do the opposite. And wartime spending is a poor excuse for the Bush’s administration’s lackluster response to Hurricane Katrina.

Cheney, you’re doing a heck of a job. Now shut up and go away already, Dr. Strangelove.

In an interview that aired Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the recession “probably” will end this year if the government is successful in its efforts to bolster the banking system. This includes getting banks to lend more freely (and responsibly) again and stabilizing the financial markets, he said.

Bernanke also believes the U.S. economy is no longer in danger of sinking into a depression. (To read the interview, click here.)

This is great news if Bernanke is right. But I don’t think we’re out of the economically depressed woods yet. I’m sure it won’t be easy to convince banks to lend more freely, considering how tone deaf the heads of bailed-out banks and insurance companies have been to the situation thus far. The latest example of this is American International Group (AIG) paying $165 million in bonuses to executives after losing $61.7 billion in the fourth quarter of last year — the largest corporate loss in history. Yet AIG still gives all that bonus money — money it has only because the insurance giant took more than $170 billion in bailout money from the federal government — to people who helped put our country in this economic mess. AIG says it was contractually obligated to pay out those bonuses, but I’m sure the company would have found a way out of parting with that money if it hadn’t gotten billions of dollars in bailout funds.

Even if the banks and financial markets start acting the way Bernanke hopes, unemployment figures still will rise, probably into double digits. I’m hopeful that economic recovery will begin by next year as Bernanke suggests, but if it doesn’t, things are going to get ugly for a lot more Americans.

While this is all going on, former Vice President Dick Cheney is busy saying the Bush administration is not to blame for the economic crisis. He told CNN’s John King that America got swept up in a global financial crisis. That may be partly true, but the state of America’s economy plays a large part in determining the state of the world economy. Cheney ought to go back to an undisclosed location and stop reminding us about the Bush administration.