Dick Cheney, reports The Wall Street Journal’s Patrick O’Connor, has a new book coming out in September, as well as “a Darth Vader trailer-hitch cover, a nod to his alter-ego from the Bush days,” and also a slightly new way of defending his administration’s record of protecting Americans from terrorist attacks. Cheney now tells O’Connor his policies “kept us safe for 7½ years.”
The usual Republican line is that Bush and Cheney “kept us safe,” full stop. The “he kept us safe” line has always been slightly tricky owing to the fact that foreign terrorist attacks killed more Americans during the Bush administration than every other presidency in history combined. The easiest way to handle this tiny fly in the ointment (and the related problems of Bush ignoring serious warnings of imminent attacks) is to pretend it never happened. To wit, Jeb Bush yesterday defended his brother’s administration like so: “Well, the successes clearly are protecting the homeland. We were under attack, and he brought — he unified the country and he showed dogged determination. And he kept us safe.
I’m very proud of what we did in terms of defending the nation for the last eight years successfully. …
I think they were directly responsible for the fact that for eight years we had no further mass casualty attacks against the United States. …
we had a track record now of eight years of defending the nation against any further mass casualty attacks from Al Qaida.
Cheney could say “eight years” because the interview took place eight years after the enormous mass-casualty attack that occurred on his watch. “Eight years” is a nice-sounding phrase, because it matches the length of his term in office. His eight-year figure took the last seven and a half years of Bush plus the first six months of Obama to arrive at a nice, round sum.
In 2013, Cheney altered the boast somewhat, to castigate the Obama administration for having been caught by surprise by the attacks at Benghazi. “When we were there, on our watch, we were always ready on 9/11, on the anniversary,” he scolded. Cheney was about to insist that the Bush administration had been prepared to stop a terrorist attack on every 9/11, then realized that there was that one huge exception, so he changed it slightly. Under their watch, Americans enjoyed seven terrorism-free September 11s out of eight.
And now he’s been reduced to “kept us safe for 7½ years.” It doesn’t have quite the same ring, given that most people are aware that presidential administrations govern in numbers divisible by four. It is somewhat reminiscent of a circa-2000 Onion article imagining George W. Bush suspiciously refusing to deny a 1984 mass murder for which he appeared guilty. (“On Jan. 20, during a radio interview on Pittsburgh’s KDKA, he said he has ‘not committed a single mass murder in the past 16 years’ — just one day after making a similar comment mentioning 15 years.”) That odd fastidiousness in the service of massive dishonesty has become the most charming element of the Cheney post-presidency.