In his post on Dick Cheney’s speech this week, Paul Mirengoff focused on Cheney’s account of the Bush administration’s reassessment of its strategy in Afghanistan. Paul wrote that Cheney’s speech at the Center for Security Policy “blew the whistle on some egregious dishonesty by the Obama administration.” Paul quoted this passage of Cheney’s speech:
Recently, President Obama’s advisors have decided that it’s easier to blame the Bush Administration than support our troops. This weekend they leveled a charge that cannot go unanswered. The President’s chief of staff claimed that the Bush Administration hadn’t asked any tough questions about Afghanistan, and he complained that the Obama Administration had to start from scratch to put together a strategy.
In the fall of 2008, fully aware of the need to meet new challenges being posed by the Taliban, we dug into every aspect of Afghanistan policy, assembling a team that repeatedly went into the country, reviewing options and recommendations, and briefing President-elect Obama’s team. They asked us not to announce our findings publicly, and we agreed, giving them the benefit of our work and the benefit of the doubt. The new strategy they embraced in March, with a focus on counterinsurgency and an increase in the numbers of troops, bears a striking resemblance to the strategy we passed to them. They made a decision – a good one, I think – and sent a commander into the field to implement it. Now they seem to be pulling back and blaming others for their failure to implement the strategy they embraced . . .
In short, Paul wrote, the Obama administration falsely claimed that the Bush administration had done no planning or analysis regarding the worsening situation in Afghanistan, even though it (1) knew this was false, (2) had asked the Bush administration not to disclose its work, and (3) relied in part on the same work it claimed the Bush administration had not performed. Paul judged that what Cheney described went beyond lack of class to demonstrate bad character on the part of the Obama administration.
Now comes the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes to examine the issues of fact raised by Cheney’s account. In “Obama’s minions are ingrates,” Hayes documents the formal review conducted by the Bush administration that was turned over to the Obama team and inquires whether (as Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs has charged) the Bush team sat on a request for increased troops. Hayes confirms Cheney’s assertions as a matter of fact.
Steve adds this pungent quote from a Bush administration insider: “If it’s true that the Bush administration sat on these troop requests for eight months, is the White House suggesting that the Pentagon was incompetent or negligent or both? That would be a good question to put to the defense secretary–and President Obama is in a position to make him talk.”
Paul’s judgment on this episode stands, as does Cheney’s.