Dick Cheney has spent the past year participating in "happy-ending" interviews, giving himself awards, making speeches in front of his friends and basically just trying to take credit for keeping America safe after 9/11 without having to take any responsibility for the means by which said safety was achieved. So, naturally, white-mustachioed anger-sack John Bolton thinks Cheney deserves to be "conservative of the year."
What seems to most impress Bolton, writing for Human Events, is that time Cheney gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute on the same day that President Barack Obama gave one. Sure, one guy is setting actual policy, and one guy is re-pimping his old ideas in front of a crowd of glad-handers, but we shouldn't let the fact that only one of the participants in this Makin' Speeches Duel-Off had anything at stake get in the way of Bolton working his way to climax:
So, a major Cheney speech at AEI shortly after leaving the vice presidency was neither surprising nor aimed at the new Oval Office occupant. What was surprising, unprecedented and even unpresidential, however, was the Obama Administration's reaction. Instead of leaving it to allies in Congress, Cabinet officers, or the media to debate the former Vice President, the White House scheduled a speech by the President himself on precisely the same topic. Even more amazingly, they scheduled it on exactly the same day as Cheney's AEI speech, May 21, two hours before Cheney was scheduled to start his remarks. Political commentators searched their memories and clippings files, but no one could come up with another example of a President's so directly taking on even a former President, let alone a former Vice President.
So nervous were Obama's stage managers that they did not realize until too late that they had made a serious mistake by having Obama go first, thus allowing the amused Cheney and his waiting audience at AEI to watch Obama's speech and then directly critique his arguments as soon as Obama had finished. Tellingly, Cheney didn't have to alter the text he had already prepared, because he had already correctly anticipated and written out refutations of all of Obama's central arguments. The White House politicos had tried to set a trap, but had succeeded only in trapping their own President.
Yes! It was a cunning trap that had no discernible effect on the Obama White House's policy-making decisions!
Still it's hard to argue with Bolton in that the Obama administration did do their part in making the whole affair seem like a connected debate on foreign policy. What is amusing is that Bolton simultaneously gives Cheney credit for making the most of going second that day -- which apparently afforded him the chance to do some sort of improvisatory "direct critique" of Obama's speech -- while at the same time giving Cheney credit for not having to improvise at all. That's sort of an "either/or" situation, John!
At any rate, DNC Press Secretary Hari Sevugan scoffs, "What does it say about the current crop of Republican leaders that the 'Conservative of the Year' is the face of a previous administration who regularly scored approval ratings in the 20s? No new ideas, no new direction, no new leaders -- your GOP giving new meaning to 'The Party of No' every day."
A more substantive point was made by Dave Weigel over at the Washington Independent: "...there is a strong case to be made that it's on foreign policy and civil liberties issues that the Obama administration has been most disappointing to the left and most encouraging to neoconservatives."
That's the thing: Cheney has basically spent the year pointlessly whining and carping about policy differences that have more or less failed to materialize. Naturally, I'm assuming that it was the high quality of the whining and carping that put Cheney so high in Bolton's estimation.