There is a long-standing tradition in politics that a former President does not publicly criticize a sitting President. George W. Bush is admirably maintaining that tradition despite constant criticism of his term in office from the sitting President. Only Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, two class acts the likes of which have not been seen since the days of carnival freak shows, have broken that tradition.
But there is no such tradition regarding Vice Presidents. Traditionally, one role of the VP has been to be the attack dog for the President. What the POTUS can not say for the sake of decorum, the VP can.
There are some in the media who are questioning the propriety of Dick Cheney’s recent blast at Obama. I have less of a problem with it. For starters, I think Cheney is correct. Certainly the release of memos detailing the “enhanced interrogation techniques” has done absolutely nothing except let our enemies know the limits of what we will or won’t do to them.
Secondly, the current administration takes almost daily shots at the previous administration. Obama can not answer a single question about the economy or the war without prefacing his remarks with the words “I inherited…” or “In previous years….” Memo to Obama: We know. You inherited an awful economy and a deteriorating war in Afghanistan. If I were writing this type of stuff last year I would have been ripping the Bush Administration apart…I have no love for Bush or the Republican party as a whole. But reminding people day in and day out that the problem was not created by you is just a way of avoiding responsibility for the results of your current actions, which have not had a chance to even begin working yet. For better or worse, it’s your economy and your war now. The constant blaming of Bush invites a defense from Cheney.
If Obama truly believes in full transparency about the actions of our government, he should release the Clinton-era memos relating to terrorism and al-Qaeda. What were Attorney General Eric Holder’s legal opinions of how to handle Muslim extremists when he was a Deputy Attorney General during the ’90s? Where are the memos that detail the effectiveness or (as the current administration would have it) non-effectiveness of techniques such as waterboarding? Cheney maintains that “hundreds of thousands” of lives were saved. We can find out the truth simply by releasing the rest of the documents pertaining to this issue. If Cheney is lying, a simple release of the memos would prove it. If, on the other hand, he’s telling the truth, the release of these memos might put a huge question mark over Obama’s decision to stop these techniques.
The Obama administration has an odd definition of “transparency.” If it’s embarrassing to the previous administration, it will be shown to the world. If it vindicates the previous administration, or could embarrass the Clinton or Obama administrations, it is kept tightly under wraps. Just more politics, Chicago-style.