By Daniel Klaidman
Your commander in chief needs you. For the good of the country, for the safety of the American people, and for the sake of your own patriotism, I am asking you to serve on the President's Intelligence Advisory Board.
— President Barack Obama
Barack Obama needs to send a note like this one to former vice president Dick Cheney. Fighting two wars abroad, and still vulnerable to terror attacks at home, we must project strength through unity. What better way to demonstrate American resolve in the face of the evildoers than by giving Cheney a seat on the PIAB (formerly PFIAB before "foreign" was dropped from the title), that obscure, but historically important, panel of graybeards who provide unvarnished intelligence advice to the president. The advantages to Obama would be clear. It would co-opt his most dastardly critic on the right. Better to have Cheney inside the tent pissing out than on Sean Hannity pissing in.
And as Thursday's health-care summit reminded us, Obama is never happier than when searching for common ground between warring camps. Throwing Cheney into the mix of PIAB wise men would ignite epic battles among Obama's advisers, reminding the president of those happy days when he mediated between the lefties and wingnuts on the Harvard Law Review.
But why, you might ask, would Cheney accept such an offer? The last thing he'd want is to be political window dressing for the Obama White House. Or maybe not. Here are six reasons why wiley ol' Dick Cheney might actually answer an Obama call to service:
1. Any true Machiavellian would follow Michael Corleone's dictum (often wrongly attributed to Sun Tzu) to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
2. Cheney, who once referred to waterboarding as "a no-brainer," would never have a better forum to deliver a snarling "you can't handle the truth" speech than a PIAB board at which the use of enhanced interrogation methods was debated.
3. No one knows better than Cheney the perils of manipulating intelligence. On the PIAB he could serve as a one-man Red Team guarding against the cherrypicking of intel or groupthink, the kind of behavior that might lead to, say, invading and occupying the wrong country.
4. Cheney would have to give up his rock-star appearances at conservative confabs—that includes being daughter Liz's arm candy at next year's CPAC convention. On the other hand, he'd have among the highest security clearances in the government, and thus access to an unlimited stream of raw intel with which to fuel Liz's scaremongering presidential run in 2012.
5. Granted, returning to the shadows means no more appearances on Fox News to warn of apocalyptic doom, and rail against the softies in the Obama administration. But on the PIAB, Cheney would have the power to investigate those lily-livered bureaucrats at the CIA to his dark heart's content.
6. PIAB and its members are cloaked in a warm blanket of secrecy, just the way Cheney likes his public service. They are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act; its obscurity will keep pesky reporters away. And Cheney could even go back to work at Halliburton, since PIAB members don't have to disclose their financial interests.