The president and the former V.P., in a flash

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“‘. . . President Obama seems determined to leave office ensuring he has taken America down a notch,’ the Cheneys wrote. Are they charging our president with treason? ‘President Obama,’ they write, ‘is on track to securing his legacy as the man who betrayed our past and squandered our freedom.’”

What compelled Cheney to step out of the shadows with such toxic accusations? Is it a need to legitimize his own troubling legacy?

A counterpoint to the Cheney sighting was the other photo that drew my attention last week: Obama, captured in a moment of sad resignation, as he announced his next, reluctant step in Iraq: sending 300 “advisers” into the fray. In the front-page New York Times photo, the president looked aged beyond his years; he seemed unable, in the moment, to put on a public face. He was revealed, I thought, as a man caught in an awful bind, with no good options.

Reasonable-minded people agree that Obama inherited this war and began getting us out of Iraq as soon as it was possible to do so. He thought, and we hoped, we were done in 2011, when the last American troops came home. But sectarian disputes in the Middle East have a life of their own; the destiny of Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Yemen, etc., are ultimately beyond our reach, despite the drones, despite the sanctions.

You may not like the president or agree with his policies, but he is a decent man, doing his best against formidable enemies, here and abroad. Look at his face as he announced our return to Iraq and read the agony of this imperfect decision. The buck stops with him, and he wanted to be president, but there is no “right” response to the deteriorating conflict in Iraq. Surely civilized people can agree that this is not the moment for former vice presidents to issue hypocritical statements questioning the president’s character and loyalty.

The president needs and deserves support. Cheney needs to retire from public life and desist from gratuitous verbal assaults. It’s a free America, and we have free speech, but his words fall like salt on the open wounds of this country.

Copyright © 2014 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at

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