Dick Cheney's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Poor Dick Cheney. Ever since George W. Bush's presidential term ended, all the former veep has wanted to do is spend some time at home, kick back with his grandchildren, and publicly criticize and undermine the authority of our current commander in chief as often as possible.

And yet, it seems that no matter what he does, he can't stay out of the headlines. Specifically, the terrifying and tragic headlines dominating today's news. First, Alex Pareene at Salon's War Room notes that the giant, toxic, seemingly unstoppable oil spill headed toward the fragile and vulnerable Gulf Coast could be construed as kind of Cheney's fault.

The Wall Street Journal reportsthat the oil well didn't have a remote-control shut-off switch. The reason it didn't have a thing that it seems every single offshore drilling rig should have? According to environmental lawyer Mike Papantonio, it's because Dick Cheney's energy task force decided that the $500,000 switches were too expensive, and they didn't want to make BP buy any.

That task force, of course, being the semi-shady National Energy Policy Development Group, a group formed during Bush's first weeks in office and chaired by Cheney. But look: there's a lot of blame to go around here. There's Transocean, which owned the well; BP, which ran that well's operations; rogue environmentalists looking to make a point. (There's also Cheney's former company, Halliburton, which is under investigation for doing shoddy subcontracting work that may have led to the mine's blowout, and possibly God.) So it's unfair to pin this all on him.

Cheney's also not responsible for today's other big headline: the attempted bomb set in Times Square. But he is, according to Slate, way wrong about how terrorism should be handled, a wrongness that's made evident by the excellent police work that helped thwart this attack. Cheney believes that terrorism, an act of war, must be treated much differently than "criminal acts" (for instance: military tribunals, Gitmo, denial of basic rights). Fred Kaplan argues otherwise:

Regardless of who tried to bomb Times Square, the New York City police (and, presumably, much more behind the scenes, U.S. and allied intelligence agencies) would be doing exactly the same thing that they're doing in response—scouring the forensic clues, scrutinizing video footage, questioning witnesses and the usual sources, double-checking electronic intercepts, and all the rest.

Terrorism, in some of its forms, may be a campaign of war—but it manifests itself in criminal acts. And while the military has a role in combating terrorist organizations (see the war in Afghanistan, the drone attacks on al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan, etc.), the acts are often best pre-empted, foiled, and punished by the routine procedures of a well-trained police force and intelligence organizations.

Of course, Kaplan's been after Cheney for quite some time, but such a public rebuke of one's defining principles of government must sting so soon after being accused of causing one of the largest environmental disasters in modern history. To make matters worse? According to Laura Bush's new memoir, she indirectly took him to school after he shot his friend in the face.

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