Opinion

Dick Cheney is back to blast 'isolationists' on left and right

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Politico,Iraq,Iraq War,National Security,Rand Paul,Liz Cheney,Dick Cheney,Blake Seitz

Everything old is new again, as a Monday luncheon featuring Dick Cheney was crashed by hecklers from the antiwar group Code Pink.

Code Pink's theatrics, at a Politico-sponsored luncheon with the Cheney family, focused predictably on the former vice president's support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Co-founder Medea Benjamin, a professional activist who moonlights as an apologist for dictators, approached the stage to arrest the "war criminal," prop handcuffs a-jangling. Benjamin and her band of motley pranksters were escorted from the hotel, where they demonstrated with a mascot representation of Dick Cheney wearing prison stripes.

President George W. Bush and many in his administration have stepped off the stage since 2008, depriving Code Pink of its favorite targets. Not so Cheney.

The former vice president is a vocal defender of the Iraq War, arguing that the Bush administration left Iraq in stable condition.

"It was absolutely the right thing to do," he declared Monday.

Now the situation in Iraq and elsewhere has deteriorated, and Cheney has a new role: as a critic of "isolationists" left and right.

During the luncheon, he explained the difference between Bush's retirement and his own decision to remain active in public life. While Bush decided early that he would follow precedent by not criticizing his successor, Cheney joked he is "not bound by those strictures."

It shows. Spurred by growing instability in the Middle East, last month Dick Cheney, along with daughter Liz, launched the Alliance for a Strong America, a nonprofit devoted to "reversing the dangerous policies of the Obama administration."

He delivered an indictment of Obama's foreign policy during the luncheon, arguing the president has rejected a longstanding bipartisan consensus about the importance of American leadership in the world.

"I don't think President Obama has the same worldview as presidents of the last 70 years," Cheney said.

He pointed to Obama's failure to negotiate a status of forces agreement to keep U.S. troops in Iraq as the cause of the country's recent crisis, along with the divisive leadership of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Additionally, he said President Obama's "outrageous" cuts to the military "will restrict future presidents' ability to respond to crises."

Cheney's saved his harshest words for "isolationists" on the right, who he said are "crazy" and "out to lunch.

"Anyone who has lived through 9/11 can't think we can retreat behind our oceans and be safe," he said. "We can't afford to buy into the notion that we can just stay home."

According to Cheney, developments since 9/11 have revealed the "nexus" between terrorist groups and rogue states with nuclear capability. Aided by state sponsors of terrorism like Syria and North Korea, he predicted the U.S.'s next attackers will be armed with weapons more devastating than "airline tickets."

Cheney said his new group will work so that "national security issues are front and center" during the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He refused to endorse or oppose any Republican candidate, although he professed profound differences of opinion with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on foreign policy.

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