Thursday, December 31, 2009

When Obama stole a line from Cheney

One of the defining moments of the 2008 campaign came in the wake of the Lehman Brothers collapse, when John McCain announced that he was suspending his campaign and called on Obama to postpone their upcoming debate while al hands were called on deck to deal with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's request for $700 billion to bail out the megabanks. Obama's response - a President has to be able to do more than one thing at a time -- exposed McCain for the shallow showboating bully that he is.

Who noticed at the time that Obama was quoting his distant cousin, Dick Cheney?  I just stumbled on this exchange in a Tim Russert interview with Cheney on March 16, 2003, days before the U.S. attacked  Iraq:
MR. RUSSERT: In order to pay for this war, would the president consider suspending his proposed tax cut?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don’t believe that’s the right course of action, Tim. This is one of those times when as important as the war on terror is and as important as the problem of Iraq is, we’ve also got a lot of other balls in the air. And an American president these days doesn’t have the choice of focusing on only one thing. We’ve also got to deal with the Middle East peace process, with Israelis and Palestinians which we did this week. We’ve got to deal with the domestic economy. It’s very important to get the economy growing again. And one of the reasons we’ve had a fall-off in revenue, obviously, is a slow economy and we need to get growth started again....

I imagine that in one form or another, the observation that a President has to focus on many issues simultaneously is a truism going back many decades, if not a couple of centuries.

BTW, a look back at the Russert interview highlights what we lost with his untimely death.  He asked Cheney every question he should have -- whether he disagreed with the International Atomic Energy Agency's assessment that Iraq had no nuclear program, whether the U.S. was alienating allies, whether the invasion would stimulate anti-American feeling and terrorism among Muslim populations, whether we would need hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground to secure the country after invasion, whether the war mightn't cost $100 billion, whether Brent Scowcroft's vocal criticism of the rush to war gave him pause -- and, per above, whether war might require scaling back tax cuts..   You can't accuse Cheney of being unwilling to engage these questions, either -- though you may marvel how wrong he was about everything.

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