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Megyn Kelly vs. Dick Cheney: An accountability moment for the ex-veep

Dick Cheney has been Darth Vader for the left since the days when he was seen as the driving force behind George Bush’s dead-or-alive approach to foreign policy.

And while W. has maintained a respectful silence since leaving office, the former vice president has spent the last six years denouncing President Obama time and again, in ways that have ticked off the libs even more.

But Cheney surfacing yet again to slam Obama for the crisis in Iraq—in the aftermath of a war that he aggressively promoted from the White House—has triggered a backlash. And the moment was crystallized when he appeared on Megyn Kelly’s show.

I think it’s fair to say that Cheney, who is routinely bashed at places like MSNBC, considers Fox friendly territory. When he accidentally shot a fellow hunter, he turned to Fox’s Brit Hume to explain himself. His daughter Liz, who joined the interview, has been a Fox News contributor.

But Megyn Kelly came at Cheney hard in that Wednesday night appearance. She did not let him off the hook for what happened in 2003. It was an important moment for her, as a relatively new prime-time anchor, and for Fox.

Kelly began by quoting liberal Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman:

“‘There is not a single person in America who has been more wrong and more shamelessly dishonest on the topic of Iraq than Dick Cheney, and now as the cascade of misery and death and chaos, he did so much to unleash raises anew, Mr. Cheney has the unadulterated gall to come before the country and tell us that it's all someone else's fault.’ The suggestion is that you caused this mess, Mr. Vice President.  What say you?”

Cheney responded with his standard defense: “I think we went into Iraq for very good reasons.  I think when we left office, we had a situation in Iraq that was very positive… What happened was that Barack Obama came to office, and instead of negotiating a stay behind agreement, he basically walked away from it.” 

Kelly came back hard: “But time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well in Iraq, sir.  You said there were no doubts Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  You said we would greeted as liberators.  You said the Iraq insurgency was in the last throes back in 2005.  And you said that after our intervention, extremists would have to, quote, ‘rethink their strategy of Jihad.’  Now with almost a trillion dollars spent there with 4,500 American lives lost there, what do you say to those who say, you were so wrong about so much at the expense of so many?”

Cheney stuck to his guns: “We inherited a situation where there was no doubt in anybody's mind about the extent of Saddam's involvement in weapons of mass destruction.  We had a situation where if we -- after 9/11, we were concerned about a follow-up  attack, it would involve not just airline tickets and box cutters as the weapons, but rather something far deadlier, perhaps even a nuclear weapon.” Except there were no WMDs or nuclear weapons.

Whether you agree with the decision to invade or not, and whether you believe Obama made a mess of the aftermath or not, this was accountability in action.

The latest Cheney offensive, which began with a Wall Street Journal op-ed written with Liz, who recently withdrew as a Senate candidate in Wyoming, has drawn intense criticism. A debate was already brewing over whether the media should give a platform to the likes of Bill Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Paul Bremer and other pro-war advocates to make the case for renewed military intervention in Iraq now that terrorists have seized nearly a third of the country.

CNN’s Don Lemon, for example, declared “the fact that Dick Cheney has the gall to offer anyone advice on Iraq is laughable, except it’s not funny.”

But the more stinging critique comes from the right, from folks who might be expected to be sympathetic to Cheney.

Fox News contributor Byron York writes in the Washington Examiner: “The former vice president simply does not take into account the Bush administration's failures in Iraq. Reciting President Obama's own failures, Cheney writes: ‘Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.’ There's a remarkable lack of self-examination in that line.

“It's not that Cheney, with a crisis raging, should write a piece apologizing for decisions made years ago. It's just that any article pointing out the Obama administration's mistakes in Iraq would be far more credible if it included even a brief admission of the Bush administration's errors, too.”

Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey has this to say on “the great We told you so from the neocons”:

“The Cheneys are likely whistling into the wind here. There hasn’t been much polling on Iraq, but the PPP poll taken over the weekend shows that the neocon policy is even less popular than Obama’s leadership at the moment. Even with the looming disaster facing Baghdad and by extension American policy, and even with the threat that ISIS represents to the region and eventually to the US directly, only 20 percent want American troops back in Iraq.”

And Glenn Beck renounced his support for the invasion, saying on The Blaze:

“Let me lead with my mistakes. You are right. Liberals, you were right…You cannot force democracy on the Iraqis or anybody else.”

Dick Cheney had plenty of company in backing the Iraq war, including the votes of such Democratic senators as Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. And he’s entitled to defend his tenure. I don’t side with those who say the pro-war gang should be hooted off the stage. But those beating the war drums again should be confronted with hard questions, as Cheney was the other night.

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Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.