‘I WAITED TWO YEARS’…. Most national leaders, once they leave office, usually maintain some sense of decorum, refraining from attacking their successors until quite a bit of time has passed. Putting aside whether or not one agrees with Dick Cheney’s rhetorical attacks on the White House, there’s no modern precedent for his offensive — Cheney waited just two weeks after Obama’s inauguration before accusing the new administration of coddling terrorists and putting American lives at risk. Two weeks.

His predecessor seems surprised by Cheney’s classlessness.

Al Gore said Friday that fellow former Vice President Dick Cheney has jumped back into the political fray too soon into the new administration’s term.

“I waited two years after I left office to make statements that were critical,” Gore said during an interview on CNN, pointing out that his critiques were focused on “policy.”

“Talk about somebody that shouldn’t be talking about making the country less safe, invading a country that did not attack us and posed no serious threat to us at all,” Gore said of Cheney.

The comparison is imprecise, because the Clinton/Gore administration left the stage with an impressive record of peace and prosperity, making matters pretty easy for their successors, while everything Bush/Cheney touched turned to garbage. That said, I’m trying to imagine the response from the political world, and Republican in particular, if the situation were reversed.

What if Bush/Cheney had just taken office, were forced to deal with a series of national and international crises, and all Al Gore could do was go around taking deceptive shots at the elected U.S. leadership, trying to undermine public confidence in the White House during an emergency.

I think we know what would happen.

Indeed, we don’t have to imagine.

In 2002, when Bush Junior was ramping up to his war against Saddam, Al Gore made a speech trying to slow down that war resolution, pointing out that pivoting from Osama to Saddam for no reason, initiating “pre-emptive” war, and blowing off our allies would undermine the war on terror.

Charles Krauthammer called Gore’s speech “a disgrace.” Michael Kelly, his fellow Washington Post columnist, called it “vile” and “contemptible.” Newt Gingrich said that the former vice president asserting that W. was making America less safe was “well outside the mark of an appropriate debate.”

“I think the president should be doing what he thinks is best as commander in chief,” Gingrich said flatly.

I’m glad to see Gore weighing in on this. He has the kind of credibility and decency his successor clearly lacks.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.