CHENEY CAN’T HELP HIMSELF…. Remember about a month ago, when several prominent Republican officials acknowledged publicly that they’d like to see Dick Cheney quietly go away? The former vice president really doesn’t care what they think.

Cheney repeated the tired litany of recent attacks on President Obama, starting with his “concerns” about the president’s recent speech outlining the ways in which the United States can “renew our partnership” with Europe. From there, it went to the new Republican smear of the week.

Just days after Obama shook hands and received a gift from Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, Cheney called the images of the encounter “not helpful.” “I think it sets the wrong standard,” Cheney added.

“The president’s got to provide leadership and I don’t want to be in a position where you don’t interact with your adversaries. I think you do need to do that but I think it’s got to be done properly. It’s got to be done under the right conditions.”

Hmm, there was a hemispheric gathering of heads of state. One elected president shook hands with another elected president. In what universe is this “interaction” taking place under the “wrong conditions”?

Cheney added that there’s ample evidence that the war crimes he supported were effective, and he’s “formally asked” intelligence agencies to declassify reports about torture being “enormously valuable.” Of course, since Cheney is a civilian, his “formal” request doesn’t really amount to much.

He concluded by telling Hannity that he believes it’s “important not to personally attack the new president.” They both managed to keep a straight face. I’m not sure how.

But arguably more important than Cheney’s cringe-worthy mendacity is the larger political dynamic. Chris Cillizza noted this morning that the former vice president has apparently made the “decision to serve as the self-appointed defender of the Bush presidency,” which in turn “presents a real challenge for a party hoping to put forward new faces and fresh ideas.” Cillizza quoted a Republican consultant saying, “He is a face of the past. A face of conflict and too polarizing. So, not a good face of the party.”

This is precisely why Democrats are thrilled Dick Cheney hasn’t found a more productive way to spend his retirement. The majority party would love nothing more than a political fight that boils down to Obama’s approach vs. the Bush/Cheney/Rove approach. The former VP keeps making this easier.

Cheney thinks he’s helping by becoming the GOP hatchet-man. He’s actually doing Democrats a favor.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.