If you didn’t know better, you’d almost suspect the Dick ‘n’ Liz Cheney op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today blasting the president’s Iraq policies was some sort of payoff to Obama on an old basketball bet or something. There’s no name like “Cheney” to put an exclamation point on the impression that most criticism of Obama on the current situation in Iraq is coming from precisely the people most responsible for creating it. And obviously, any sighting in the political skies of the Dark Star of the Bush administration will drive every Democrat into a defensive crouch. As Harry Reid put it today: “Being on the wrong side of Dick Cheney is being on the right side of history.”

But at TNR, Jason Zengerle has a different theory about the re-appearance of the most generally disliked former vice president since Agnew, speaking on the very subject where he has the least credibility: It’s not about Obama, but about Rand Paul, and also about Liz Cheney:

Among Republican foreign policy hawks, the former vice president remains a revered figure and, in some of their eyes, their most effective public spokesman. “He’s one of the few guys who’s not afraid to go out and argue on the most controversial terrain and make the case for surveillance and drones and a strong national defense,” a hawkish GOP strategist says. “There are some demagogues out there who have taken advantage of the moment, and Cheney can stomp on them.”

So Cheney wants to make sure the official GOP critique of Obama on Iraq comes from the War Party, not from the growing ranks of non-interventionists led by Paul.

Liz’s presence on the op-ed is a more obvious effort to rekindle her political career, which was severely battered by her short-lived primary campaign against Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi. In taking on Enzi, Zengerle notes, she was opposed both by Rand Paul and by John McCain. In carrying the tattered but still potent-in-the-GOP banner of the neocons over Iraq, Liz “finally has the proxy war she’s been waiting for.” And the old man was naturally happy to hand her the torch again.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.