Bush/Cheney too liberal for Cheney

BUSH/CHENEY TOO LIBERAL FOR CHENEY…. I’m reluctant to make too much of Dick Cheney’s latest musings — the failed former vice president gets too much attention already — but given the larger debate about national security and counter-terrorism policies, this seems like a relatively important development.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney says he disagreed with the Bush administration’s release of prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention center and with the decision to subject terrorists to criminal courts.

Cheney says he opposed the Bush administration decision to charge shoe bomber Richard Reid in criminal court rather than declare him an enemy combatant and hold him in military custody.

Obama administration officials have responded to Republican-led criticism of their handling of terrorism suspects in part by pointing to similar actions by the administration of Republican President George W. Bush.

And it’s a fairly compelling response. For every far-right Republican that tells the Obama administration, “I can’t believe you’re Mirandizing terrorist suspects, trying them in federal courts, imprisoning them on American soil, and closing Gitmo,” the administration responds, “Bush/Cheney Mirandized terrorist suspects, tried them in federal courts, imprisoned them on American soil, and supported closing Gitmo … and you never said a word.”

So, today, Cheney said the only rational thing someone who wants to trash President Obama can say: he disagreed with his own administration.

Indeed, Cheney even acknowledged that his administration could have tried Richard Reid in a military court, but chose to go the civilian route.

That’s not all. When confronted with a Bush-era Justice Department document praising civilian courts as an effective weapon against terror, Cheney acknowledged that some in the administration saw things this way. “We didn’t all agree with that,” Cheney said, acknowledging that there was a “major shootout” inside the administration over the merits of civilian trials.

This, again, is a clear acknowledgment that many Bushies endorsed the current Obama approach.

What an odd dynamic. The debate pits two groups — one is led by President Obama, whose judgment has been endorsed by the military establishment, the intelligence establishment, policy experts, and is in keeping with the practices of all modern presidential administrations. The other group is led by Dick Cheney, neocons, congressional Republicans, Joe Lieberman, and a little too much of the media establishment.

But the bottom line remains the same: as far as Cheney is concerned, Bush and his team were too liberal when it came to national security. That’s seems crazy, but that’s his argument and he’s sticking to it.

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Steve Benen

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.