Dick Cheney is giving the Republican Party a demonstration of how to fight a popular president. Stake out defensible high ground, do not surrender an inch, then go onto the attack.
The ground on which Cheney has chosen to stand is the most defensible the Republicans have: homeland security. In seven-and-a-half years after 9-11, not one terrorist attack struck our country.
And, unlike Obama's position, Cheney's is 100 percent reality based. He was there. He lived through this. He made the decisions to use the harsher techniques on the worst of the enemy who could yield the greatest intelligence to save American lives.
"The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful and the right thing to do." And they "prevented the violent deaths of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of innocent people."
Having defended every decision he took, Cheney then counterattacked. He charged The New York Times with virtual treason in exposing the program to intercept calls from al-Qaida and mocked its Pulitzer Prize. He accused liberals and Speaker Pelosi of "feigned outrage" and "phony moralizing," asserting they were fully briefed on "the program and the methods." He charged Obama with endangering national security by "triangulating," adopting a policy designed less to secure America than to unite and appease his political coalition.
"There is never a good time to compromise when the lives and safety of the American people are in the balance."
Cheney comes to this quarrel armed with credibility, certitude, consistency and conviction born of eight years of success. Listening to Obama's disquisition, one gets the sense his homeland security policy is the collective view of the editorial board of the Harvard Law Review, with a sign-off by the local chapter of the ACLU.
That Cheney is winning seems undeniable.
Not only has his approval rating risen to 37 percent, probably higher on national security, Obama's coalition is cracking apart.
Speaker Pelosi's credibility has been shredded over what she knew and when she knew it regarding waterboarding. Her comrades are all howling that the CIA lied, but no one wants an investigation.
The left wing of the party believes Obama double-crossed them when he refused to release the photos of abused prisoners, kept the military tribunals and sent 22,000 more troops to Afghanistan.