By Dan Froomkin
9:15 AM ET, 02/ 4/2009
Two weeks as a private citizen doesn't appear to have mellowed Dick Cheney one bit.
Far from going quietly, Cheney is lashing out with some pretty low blows against the new administration -- saying that President Obama is the putting the nation at increased risk of a devastating attack because some members of his team are "more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans."
John F. Harris, Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei write in Politico this morning: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney warned that there is a 'high probability' that terrorists will attempt a catastrophic nuclear or biological attack in coming years, and said he fears the Obama administration’s policies will make it more likely the attempt will succeed.
"In an interview Tuesday with Politico, Cheney unyieldingly defended the Bush administration’s support for the Guantanamo Bay prison and coercive interrogation of terrorism suspects.
"And he asserted that President Obama will either backtrack on his stated intentions to end those policies or put the county at risk in ways more severe than most Americans—and, he charged, many members of Obama’s own team—understand.
"'When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry,' Cheney said....
"'The United States needs to be not so much loved as it needs to be respected. Sometimes, that requires us to take actions that generate controversy. I’m not at all sure that that’s what the Obama administration believes.'"
The Politicos write that Cheney "expressed confidence that files will some day be publicly accessible offering specific evidence that waterboarding and other policies he promoted—over sharp internal dissent from colleagues and harsh public criticism—were directly responsible for averting new September 11-style attacks."
As I've written many times, most recently in this post, that position appears to be mostly fantasy.
Readers looking for a little context in Politico's story will have to satisfy themselves with one paragraph in which the three writers note that "many of the top Democratic legal and national security players have long viewed Cheney as a man who became unhinged by his fears, responsible for major misjudgments in Iraq and Afghanistan, willing to bend or break legal precedents and constitutional principles to advance his aims. Polls show he is one of the most unpopular people in national life."