Like Father Like Daughter: Liz Cheney’s Smear Campaign Targets Obama Officials

Get ready — it turns out that not only did Dick Cheney breed, but that, unlike his mentor Darth Vadar, he managed to bring his daughter over to the dark side.

Meet Liz Cheney, whose past career (other than being a Cheney) consists largely of serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs in the Department of State during the Bush Administration.  If her last name were not Cheney, she would be just be another former mid-level Administration official whose opinions not even Fox would be interested in hearing.

But oh what a difference a last name makes. 

Liz has not only traded on daddy’s name, she’s made a career of defending his most reprehensible policies.  Until recently, that has largely entailed going on Fox and other outlets to defend dear old daddy.  But now she has set up an organization whose stated intent is to “Keep America Safe.” 

The mission of Keep America Safe is to provide information for concerned Americans about critical national security issues. Keep America Safe seeks to influence public policy by encouraging dialogue between American citizens and their elected representatives in order to produce legislation and executive action that enhances the national security of the United States.
The United States remains a nation at war.  . . .[T]he current administration too often seems uncertain, wishful, irresolute, and unwilling to stand up for America, our allies and our interests. . . .[T]he current administration is weakening the nation, and making it more difficult for us to defend our security and our interests. . . .[T]he world is a safer place when America is trusted by our allies and feared and respected by our enemies. Keep America Safe will make the case for an unapologetic approach to fighting terrorism around the world. . . .

And how does she (and her merry band of co-conspirators) hope to keep America safe?  By scaring you and every other American to death. 

George Orwell, white courtesy phone please.

Cheney has argued that waterboarding is not torture.  She has attacked the Obama Administration for its stated plans to close Guantanamo.  She has suggested that trying Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and the other al Qaeda leaders in civil courts would give “foreign terrorists the same rights as American citizens.”  And now. . .

I should note that, although the video refers to the “al Qaeda 7,” Cheney’s group also has used the term “Guantanamo 9,” which includes not only the seven, but the two other officials already identified by Holder by name.

Before we get to how offensive — and inaccurate, and flat out immoral — all this is, let’s play a little game of compare and contrast.  First, a transcript of the ad you just watched:

So who did President Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder hire?  Nine lawyers who represented or advocated for terrorist detainees.  Who are these government officials?  Eric Holder will only name two.  Why the secrecy behind the other seven? Whose values do they share?  Tell Eric Holder that Americans have the right to know the identiy of the Al Qaeda Seven.

Now take a look at this:

In [my] Lincoln Day speech at Wheeling Thursday night I stated that the State Department harbors a nest of Communists and Communist sympathizers who are helping to shape our foreign policy. I further stated that I have in my possession the names of 57 Communists who are in the State Department at present. A State Department spokesman promptly denied this, claiming that there is not a single Communist in the Department. . . .Despite this State Department black-out, we have been able to compile a list of 57 Communists in the State Department. . . . Failure on your [President Truman's] part will label the Democratic Party of being the bedfellow of international communism.

Elizabeth Cheney, meet Senator Joseph McCarthy.  You may not be related to him, but you certainly are one of his spiritual heirs.

The term “McCarthyism” is one of the most overused epithets in American politics.  Folks on both ends of the political spectrum regularly throw it at their opponents, usually in a manner that at best, borders on ad hominem attacks.  I for one have hesitated to use it for that very reason.

Not this time. 

Liz Cheney hasn’t merely crossed a bright shining line, she’s boldly and joyfully leapt over it.  She has accused an Administration of harboring unnamed terrorist “sympathizers” in order to paint Obama, Holder, and others as somehow weak on terrorism.  Like McCarthy before her, Cheney is demanding that a government official name the alleged perpetrators, thus making the government complicit in the smear.  Like McCarthy before her, she (and her colleagues at KAS) have used unsubstantiated allegations to smear the names and reputations of dedicated public servants. 

As Ken Gude of the Center for American Progress told Adam Serwer of The American Prospect,

These lawyers were advocating on behalf of our Constitution and our laws. The detention policies of the Bush administration were unconstitutional and illegal, and no higher a legal authority than the Supreme Court of the United States agreed.  . . .The disgusting logic of these attacks is that the Supreme Court is in league with al-Qaeda. . . . This is exactly what Joe McCarthy did … Not kind of like McCarthyism; this is exactly McCarthyism.

I’d only slightly disagree with Gude.  This isn’t McCarthyism, it’s McCarthyism 2.0, a new and improved version where ad hominem allegations can be spread via the internet, and then repeated endlessly in the cable news echo chamber.

Some of you may question my (and Gude’s) interpretation. You may feel that “foreign terrorists” should not enjoy due process or the right to a defense lawyer.  You don’t want individuals who once defended terrorists in the Justice Department.  In reply, permit me to note that Obama is not the first President to allow such individuals to serve as lawyers for America’s enemies.  Oh no — there was another perpetrator, one that shares equal responsibility for allowing the enemies of America to penetrate the hallowed halls of our government.

George W. Bush. 

That’s right.  The Bush Administration also hired individuals who defended alleged terror suspects.  In addition, there are actually people in the Defense Department who were assigned the task of defending Guantanamo prisoners.  They’re called members of the Judge Advocate General corps, and they are responsible for prosecuting and/or defending those accused under the Universal Code of Military Justice and other U.S. laws. 

And that little inconvenient truth gets to the crux of the matter:  defending the accused is is not some sort of lefty plot destroy America.  Oh no.  It’s far worse:  it is a fundamental tenet of the American legal system originally expressed by the Founders in a little something we like to call the Bill of Rights. 

Al Qaeda 7?  Guantanamo 9?  I’d like to suggest a more accurate name:  the Sixth Amendment 9.  Or if you want to include the three individuals from the Bush Administration, let’s call them the Sixth Amendment 12.  Or we could take it even further and include every lawyer who has ever defended someone unsavory.  But then we’d have to call it the Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association.

But don’t take my word for it:

One of the wisest things the [Bush] administration did after Sept. 11 was to permit lawyers to do their jobs in defending detainees. From the enormously talented judge advocates general who directly represented Guantánamo detainees to the hundreds of private practitioners who took on individual cases, they have upheld our best principles by providing a vigorous defense. Patriotism is believing that the American system, not whim and insult, will reach the right results.

So what terrorist commie slimeball sympathizer said that?  Theodore Olson, who served as Solicitor General in the Dubya Administration.  Olson’s wife, Barbara, was on American Airlines Flight 77, the plane that al Qaeda flew into the Pentagon. 

The quote is from a 2007 article Olson co-authored with Neal Katyal, who was then representing several Guantanamo detainees in a key Supreme Court case and who is now Principal Deputy Solicitor General (and thus one of the Sixth Amendment 9, er, 12, er thousands).

So I guess according to Liz Cheney, Ted Olson, who lost his wife at the hands of al Qaeda, is an al Qaeda sympathizer.

Olson is not the only Bush Administration official who hates America.  John Bellinger III, who served as Legal Advisor to the Secretary of State under Condi Rice, has come out in defense of the Sixth Amendment 9:

I think it’s unfortunate that these individuals are being criticized for their past representation. It reflects the politicization and the polarization of terrorism issues.  Neither Republicans nor Democrats should be attacking officials in each other’s administrations based solely on the clients they have represented in the past.  We’ve had a long-standing tradition in our country for lawyers to represent unpopular causes, and they shouldn’t be attacked for doing so.

Then there’s Peter Keisler, who was head of the Civil Division at the Justice Department during the Bush Administration:

“There is a longstanding and very honorable tradition of lawyers representing unpopular or controversial clients,” Mr. Keisler said. “The fact that someone has acted within that tradition, as many lawyers, civilian and military, have done with respect to people who are accused of terrorism – that should never be a basis for suggesting that they are unfit in any way to serve in the Department of Justice. . . .As volunteer lawyers for the detainees, he said, “they were asserting the position that there should be more judicial review of the circumstances of that detention – a position the Supreme Court ultimately agreed with. And it’s wrong to suggest that people who took that position are somehow sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

Sounds like Jack Bauer needs to take these so-called patriots into a room and teach them a lesson. 

I have a better idea.  Instead, let’s see if at least one news outlet — at least one, for crying out loud — instead opens their next interview of Liz Cheney with a version of the question the great Joseph Welch asked Joe McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy hearings:

I don’t think she does, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Screen shot, from a Fox News video on YouTube
Charles J. Brown is Senior Fellow and Washington Director at the Institute for International Law and Human Rights and the host of Undiplomatic, a blog on the intersection of foreign policy, politics, and pop culture.  You also can follow him on Twitter.


Gunter K.
.7 years ago


Bothe Liz and Mary.....

It begs the question: Is it transmitted genetically or environmentally? Or, the double whammy - both!

Abo Ahmed r.
Abo r7 years ago


Deborah K.
Deborah K.7 years ago

But then there is Mary Cheney who identifies as a lesbian and supported plans to try and amend the federal constitution to outlaw any attempts to recognize the civil rights of gay and lesbian people.

Roger R.
Past Member 7 years ago

Didn't "they" all opt to live in Dubai with their "newly expanded" Haliburton Empire? Courtesy of the contracts they got from our (weapons of masss destruction) get more oil for EXON and "their" record profit years? Duh...."buy low" (take) and sell high? Who is kidding who here.....blow your smoke someplace else Cheney !

Audrey L.
Audrey L7 years ago

Rotten fruit doesn't fall far from the tree.

Audrey L.
Audrey L7 years ago

Rotten fruit doesn't fall far from the tree.

Fran H.
Fran H7 years ago

Your right Kaye Skinner, why compare Father and Daughter. Liz is doing a fine job of making an ass of herself w/out any help from good old dad. You also seem to lack the depth of realizing how her lying rhetoric can affect your personal life. Sad.

@ Kathleen T. what planet on you on? This article has nothing to do with health care. And using the word "stupid" leads me to believe you are not a very bright individual, not to mention you make yourself sound so immature.

Kaye Skinner
Rev. Dr. Kaye S7 years ago

I don't see the need to compare Father and Daughter.

Paul O.
Paul O'Dowd7 years ago

Will someone please explain why the right wing dupes who insist upon venting their piffle in public, refuse to use the spell checker to mask the depths of their ignorance? If they would just sift through their vomit after spilling it into the text entry box, the words with the little red squiggle under them are spelt rong. If they fixed them up then maybe the more gullible amongst us might think that they had some credibility... On second thoughts... no they wouldn't.

Robert S.
Robert S7 years ago