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Dick Cheney slams Obama on torture. Is the ex-VP becoming the new Jimmy Carter?

April 21, 2009 | 11:00 am

There used to be an axiom in presidential history: Don't slam your successor, at least in public.

OK, so former President Carter has been the exception that proves the rule. The Georgia peanut farmer made a habit of criticizing both Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush while they were in office.

And it's true that Al Gore, the Clinton vice president many supporters believe won the 2000 election, regularly attacked the Bush administration for its climate change and terrorism policies, winning a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along the way.

Still, it seems unlikely that the Nobel Committee, known for its liberal proclivities, would award anything to Dick Cheney, known in some quarters as the Darth Vader of American politics.

So what's the former vice president up to?

First, back in March, Cheney criticized President Obama for ending military trials for suspected terrorists, working to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and ordering CIA interrogators to abide by the U.S. Army Field Manual's regulations for treatment of detainees -- no more waterboarding.

Cheney's comment: Americans are less safe.

Then, this week, after the Obama administration released legal documents showing how the Bush White House made the case for torture, Cheney hit the Fox TV circuit again, arguing that the interrogation methods were "enormously valuable" in thwarting terrorist attacks.

Maybe the former vice president is just trying to protect his legacy as the father of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies.

Or maybe former President George W. Bush authorized Cheney's avalanche of criticism to shield his own reputation as the commander in chief who took us to war in Iraq.

Either way, it's of note that with Democrats running the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, Cheney -- a 68-year-old former vice president with a long resume of top Republican political jobs from Gerald R. Ford's White House chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush's Pentagon secretary -- would emerge as the Republicans' primary public face.

-- Johanna Neuman

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