Long before Dick Cheney chose Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell as worthy of Republican emulation in a recent Face the Nation segment, he made a name for himself as a conservative of the caliber of Ronald Reagan. Throughout the course of his political career the former vice president, defense secretary, congressman, and oilman has proven to be a stalwart and a leftist’s worst nightmare, for he is not only conservative but seemingly unaffected by the Left’s derisive politics of shame.
As defense secretary under President George H.W. Bush, Cheney was one of the few voices that called for a continuation of Reagan’s military buildup after our victory in Desert Storm and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In October 1991, the New York Times mocked Cheney’s stance:
With the evaporating Soviet threat, what should the Pentagon be prepared to defend against? The worst menace anyone can conjure is another Iraq. But even Iraq is much reduced and no other [such threats] are visible.
Isn’t it just like the Left to view our victories in Desert Storm and the Cold War as opportunities for disarmament? Opportunities they approached with phrases like “the rush to modernize can … be safely slowed.”
For the record, “another Iraq” did arise. And contrary to the claims of the New York Times, the second Iraq was worse than the first if only because countries like Iran and groups like al-Qaeda viewed Iraq as a battleground against the West. So that’s Cheney 1, Leftists 0.
When George W. Bush picked Cheney for his running mate in 2000, liberals went apoplectic. Leftist fringe groups criticized the fact that Cheney had gone against Colin Powell while defense secretary under Bush 41. They asserted that the “very hawkish” Cheney had proposed “[fighting] a war [in defense of] corporate oil interests in the Gulf … over the opposition of such a plan by Colin Powell.”
But such criticism didn’t stall the momentum Cheney brought to the ticket, so the mainstream media sought to lessen his effectiveness by warning that he was just going to spend his time criticizing Bill Clinton’s weak military stances on the campaign trail. The problem for the hand-wringers in the media was that there was so much to criticize:
[Cheney made it clear] that the Clinton administration had failed in its response to terrorist acts, going back to the World Trade Center bombing, in 1993, and that there had been a pattern of weak responses: not enough response to the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa; [and] none to the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.
Cheney 2, Leftists 0.
By August 2000 Cheney had added reminders of Clinton’s corruption to his stump speeches, which led to Democrat attempts to shame him into silence. For example, the New York Times accused him of “attacking” Clinton, but Cheney would have none of it. Instead, in Reagan-like fashion he told the paper:
We’ve made it clear what we want to bring to the White House. If it implies any criticism of the Clinton administration, that’s their problem, not ours.
In the end, the Bush/Cheney ticket won the 2000 election. Cheney 3, Leftists 0.
After the attacks on 9/11 and our March 2003 invasion of Iraq, Cheney was the point man for defending our strong response to the threat of terrorism. In January 2004, it was he who stood before our European allies and said, “Direct threats require decisive action.” That the “decisive action” of which Cheney spoke was military in nature was not lost on anyone:
Eva Biaudet, a Finnish lawmaker, said she was shocked by Cheney’s “militarism” and by the fact that his solution for reaching democracy was armaments.
To those of us who listened to Cheney’s European speeches through the prism of America’s 40th president, his words were simply reminiscent of Reagan’s “peace through strength” policy and therefore comforting.
Cheney 4, Leftists 0.
Just a few months later in 2004, Cheney proved to be Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s staunchest defender when prison abuse stories and criticism of “harsh interrogation tactics” flooded the mainstream media. On May 9, 2004, Cheney described Rumsfeld as “the best secretary of defense the United States has ever had” and told people to “get off his case and let him do his job.” Rumsfeld was allowed to “do his job” for two more years, until Democrat gains in the 2006 midterm elections led Bush to jettison him.
Yet even after Rumsfeld’s removal, Cheney’s defense of him continued because it was based on principle not polls. In early 2007, when Senator John McCain said Rumsfeld “will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history,” Cheney was there to counter him: “[McCain’s] entitled to his opinion. I just think he’s wrong.”
As recently as May 11, 2009, Cheney spoke about “enhanced interrogation techniques” — the techniques that caused so many moderates in the Republican Party (like McCain) to turn against Rumsfeld. And to the dismay of our Europeanized, Obama-worshipping mainstream press, he was “was not apologetic about the use of … enhanced … techniques,” but claimed “it would have been immoral [not to use them against] detainees … which had threatened U.S. interests.”
Cheney 5 (maybe 6 or 7), Leftists 0.
Now that Obama is reversing Bush’s anti-terrorism policies as quickly as possible, Cheney is out front again, warning that America is being put at risk by an administration that’s willing to trade our safety for the praise of the mainstream press. Said Cheney:
Let’s not do terrorist surveillance, let’s not have a robust interrogation program of these al-Qaeda folks when we capture them, let’s not take aggressive action to defend the nation, because then the New York Times will love us and we’ll get editorials written about us all over the country and our numbers will go up in the polls.
Cheney deserves our praise and affection, for he has the courage of his convictions. And even at the cost of being scorned by Europeans, major newspapers, fringe leftists, and moderates in his own party, he has remained conservative and unashamed.