Why Jon Meacham Earns the Big Bucks

Newsweek‘s editor apparently believes this is the way to make a “provocative” argument:

I think we should be taking the possibility of a Dick Cheney bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 more seriously, for a run would be good for the Republicans and good for the country. (The sound you just heard in the background was liberal readers spitting out their lattes.)

Calm down, caffeinated liberals! Meacham explains:

Why? Because Cheney is a man of conviction, has a record on which he can be judged, and whatever the result, there could be no ambiguity about the will of the people. The best way to settle arguments is by having what we used to call full and frank exchanges about the issues, and then voting. A contest between Dick Cheney and Barack Obama would offer us a bracing referendum on competing visions. One of the problems with governance since the election of Bill Clinton has been the resolute refusal of the opposition party (the GOP from 1993 to 2001, the Democrats from 2001 to 2009, and now the GOP again in the Obama years) to concede that the president, by virtue of his victory, has a mandate to take the country in a given direction.

What, exactly, did George W. Bush not get from the Democratic opposition?

More fundamentally, though–is there really a sound argument to be made in favor of Congress relinquishing its constitutional obligations in order to allow the executive branch to “take the country in a given direction”?

Somehow it gets worse:

A campaign would also give us an occasion that history denied us in 2008: an opportunity to adjudicate the George W. Bush years in a direct way. As John McCain pointed out in the fall of 2008, he is not Bush. Nor is Cheney, but the former vice president would make the case for the harder-line elements of the Bush world view.

Two-term presidents do not run for a third term in this country. And the notionthathistory “denied” usthe chance to register ourfeelings about the Bushpresidency isstrange, considering thatvotes in 2006 and 2008 seemed to express that disapproval rather clearly.

As if it weren’t bad enough, Meacham closes by arguing that Cheney could pull national politics to the “middle”:

Historically the country has tended to muddle through somewhere between the extremes of right and left. There is often much virtue in conducting public life by fits and starts. When things drift too far one way in ideological terms, Americans are pretty good about tugging them back to the middle.

But the middle moves depending on where the poles of right and left are standing at a particular moment. Given Cheney’s views, even conservatives who dislike him or think it is time to open a new chapter might give the possibility another thought, for it seems much more likely that Cheney would pull Obama to the right than that Obama would pull Cheney to the left. I think it is safe to say that neither a Huckabee nor a Palin bid would have the same effect.

It’s a strange worldview that sees Obama as a left-wing extremist who needs to be pulled to the right–and thinks it would be a bad thing for Cheney to be pulled to the left.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.