A Cheney Speaks Out on 2008
President Bush and Vice President Cheney have largely stayed out of the fray when it comes to the contest to claim the White House next year. But that has not stopped Lynne Cheney. The "second lady," for lack of a better title, has been out and about lately, happily bashing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner. But she does seem to have a soft spot for Sen. Barack Obama.
Cheney has a book to sell, a memoir of growing up in Wyoming called "Blue Skies, No Fences," and so she has been showing up everywhere in recent weeks, from CBS to C-Span, offering commentary on the current political scene along the way. She has assailed Clinton for taking seemingly inconsistent stands on Iraq, denounced former president Jimmy Carter for allegedly working against his country's interests and defended former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney against attacks on his Mormon faith based on "cultural illiteracy."
None of which should necessarily come as a surprise. Cheney was an outspoken figure long before her husband rose to the vice presidency. As chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, she was a strong conservative voice in the battles over education curriculum. And since Dick Cheney took office, she has occasionally let loose, famously chastising Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, for publicly mentioning her gay daughter and later jousting with CNN's Wolf Blitzer over torture and enemy propaganda.
In this case, she has a certain freedom to say more explicitly what her husband and her husband's boss probably think but feel they cannot say outright for fear of getting directly involved in the partisan battle to succeed the president. And perhaps unsurprisingly, she has taken aim most directly at Clinton, the New York senator who for now remains way out in front in the battle for the Democratic nomination.
"I have been troubled by her national security statements, which seem inconsistent and deliberately so -- you know, voting against funding for the war, but voting, or saying in a debate, that we would have troops in Iraq perhaps through 2013," Cheney said during an appearance at the National Press Club last week. "It's one of these things where for every yin, there's a yang, so pretty soon you don't what is going to be the next statement."
Cheney added: "Her only -- how shall I say it? -- the only thing I can be sure about Mrs. Clinton's stance on Iraq is that there'll be another one."
On the other hand, she seemed sympathetic to Obama, the Illinois senator who she recently discovered has family roots with Dick Cheney, making them eighth cousins. Asked about critics who have called Obama naÃ¯ve for saying he would meet with rogue leaders, the vice president's wife seemed to suggest that he was being held to a double standard.
"I honestly think that Senator Obama has been criticized for those stands in a way that perhaps some of the other Democratic candidates haven't been for their stands," she said. "You know, it really caused a kind of firestorm when he said some of the things he said, when he quit wearing his flag pin, for example. So I think there's been a pretty close eye on Senator Obama."
The distinction in her judgments of Clinton and Obama may stem from more than familial loyalty. Many Democrats suspect Republicans are going after Clinton for a reason -- either to tear her down because they fear her the most (that would be the interpretation of the Clinton camp) or to build up her bona fides with the party's liberal base by attacking her from the right in hopes that she would win the nomination and be a weak general election candidate (that would be the interpretation of the Obama and John Edwards camps).
Either way, Lynne Cheney has shown no affection for a woman who knows what it's like to be the spouse of a man in high office. "I'm certainly not going to be a supporter of Mrs. Clinton's and I have been troubled by the fact that you can't know what sort of president she would be, particularly on national security," she told the Associated Press in an interview. "It makes me uncomfortable. I kind of like politicians that are more in the Dick Cheney mold, who say what they mean and mean what they say."
That earned guffaws on the left, of course, given the widespread antipathy for the vice president. But Lynne Cheney gives no quarter when it comes to her husband. She did show up on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" with a Darth Vader doll for the host, Jon Stewart, but then he ribbed her for seeming to get up and leave the set rather quickly at the end of their segment. By contrast, the second lady set aside humor and picked up the shiv to defend her husband against Carter, who denounced the vice president as a "disaster for our country."
"Jimmy Carter is so predictable," she shot back, talking with Joe Scarborough on MSNBC. "He brings out a book and he makes a fuss. He creates a controversy. He did it with his last book by suggesting that Israel was creating a society of apartheid with Palestine. He's done it this year by criticizing the administration and calling Dick names." She added: "I really lost respect for Jimmy Carter in 1991," saying he intervened with foreign leaders to urge them to vote against a U.N. resolution supporting action to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi invaders. "He really has crossed some kind of line here," she said of Carter.
As for the Republican presidential contest, Lynne Cheney has been more candid in admitting what her husband and the president have not, which is that her party is dispirited about its choices. "I have a lot of friends who are moaning and groaning and, you know, rubbing their foreheads," she said at the press club. "And I tell them, 'Snap out of it. We have some good candidates.'"
While not picking among those good candidates, she has come to Romney's defense on religion, noting that her own forebears were Mormons. "I've been shocked, really, at the fact that it seems to -- there seems to be a place in our culture for, gosh, saying that Mormonism is not a real religion," she said in
Her recent spate of blunt-talk appearances has made her a hero of sorts to some conservatives aching for a champion. "If nothing else, her words last week reminded us what an able operator Mrs. Cheney is," Jeremy Lott wrote in the American Spectator this week. "The former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities and former Crossfire co-host is well-connected, smart and very good at inflicting pain on political opponents. In fact, she might be better than her husband."
So enthusiastic was Kathryn Jean Lopez that she encouraged the second lady to run for president. "She would shake up the race and she would make watching it a treat," Lopez wrote on National Review Online. "The woman knows what she wants to say and says it well -- which would take some stress off her natural allies." Reprising Cheney's remarks on how Clinton should be more like her husband, Lopez went on to write: "I'd call that fire in the belly: Run Cheney, run!"
Of course, there does not seem to be any real prospect of that. Cheney disclaimed any interest in a political career ofherownduring
And speaking out.
-- Peter Baker
October 23, 2007; 8:36 AM ET
Categories: A_Blog , Morning Cheat Sheet
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