North Korea’s recent decision to detonate an underground nuclear bomb and also test a short-range missile leaves Washington with only one question: WWDCD?
That’s right: What would Dick Cheney do?
In recent weeks, Cheney has emerged as the face of the new Republican Party. He has gone on TV not only to denounce the Obama administration for making America less safe but also to mock moderate Republicans like Colin Powell.
“If I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I’d go with Rush Limbaugh,” Cheney said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
This led to immediate speculation that Cheney and Limbaugh intend to run as a ticket in the 2012 election. A full-blown international crisis like the one President Barack Obama is now facing with North Korea gives that possible ticket its first real test.
According to The Associated Press, North Korea “is believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for at least a half-dozen atomic bombs. However, experts say scientists have not yet mastered the miniaturization needed to mount a nuclear device onto a long-range missile.”
Which means the United States is probably safe from a nuclear missile attack from North Korea right now — though South Korea, Japan, China and Russia are in peril. But by 2012, the North Koreans could have a long-range delivery system for its nuclear weapons.
Would it ever use them? A Cheney-Limbaugh ticket would not wait around to find out. North Korea, known for centuries as the “Hermit Kingdom,” has a paranoid and xenophobic government, a Stalinist-style dictator and recurring famine. It is an unstable country with unstable leaders.
So far, President Obama has addressed the crisis only with words. Monday morning, on his way to Arlington National Cemetery to observe Memorial Day, Obama paused on the White House steps to denounce North Korea.
“North Korea’s nuclear ballistic missile programs pose a great threat to the peace and security of the world, and I strongly condemn their reckless action,” Obama said. “Now, the United States and the international community must take action in response.”
Obama did not say what that action was going to be, however. “The United States will never waver from our determination to protect our people and the peace and security of the world,” he said.
Blah, blah, blah, blah. All this must sound pretty weak to a Cheney-Limbaugh ticket. That ticket would be for direct, swift, concrete action, the kind of action that can routinely be found on the TV show “24” and other fantasies.
So there are four key questions to be asked today, questions that Cheney and Limbaugh certainly will ask in the weeks ahead:
1. Why didn’t U.S. commandos grab some high-ranking North Korean official, smuggle him out of the country by submarine, take him to Guantanamo and subject him to “enhanced interrogation techniques” until he spilled the beans about the nuclear tests? That way, the United States could have done … something. We do not know what. But something.
2. Why hasn’t Cheney been consulted on a daily basis since leaving office? As Cheney pointed out in his speech to the American Enterprise Institute on May 21, “Being the first vice president who had also served as secretary of defense, naturally my duties tended toward national security. I focused on those challenges day to day, mostly free from the usual political distractions.” (His experience with national security and freedom from political distraction did not lead him to prevent the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but, hey, nobody is perfect.) The point Cheney was making is that he has this terrific résumé and even fewer distractions today, seeing as how he is out of work. “Today, I’m an even freer man,” Cheney said in his speech. So why don’t we have him under contract before somebody — Libya, Syria, Disneyland — snaps him up?
3. Why isn’t Rush Limbaugh’s radio show currently broadcast in North Korea? Why does our government not beam Limbaugh’s show into that country? It would be an instant hit. North Koreans know all about being “dittoheads.”
4. Why isn’t somebody being waterboarded right now? It has worked so well in the past.
Roger Simon is POLITICO’s chief political columnist.