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Will Liz Cheney’s new group hurt Obama?

These days, presidential campaigns begin immediately after the previous election ends, often even before the opposition party has a candidate in mind. So it wasn’t too surprising that Republicans opened up a new foreign-policy front aimed at 2012 today, bringing together former Bush administration and McCain campaign staffers to attack President Obama on a range ...

579388_091013_lizcheney2.jpg
579388_091013_lizcheney2.jpg
WASHINGTON - JUNE 1: Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, listens as her father speaks at the Gerald R. Ford Foundation's annual Journalism Awards on June 1, 2009 in Washington, DC. Vice President Cheney strongly defended the Bush administration's record on national security. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Dick Cheney

These days, presidential campaigns begin immediately after the previous election ends, often even before the opposition party has a candidate in mind. So it wasn't too surprising that Republicans opened up a new foreign-policy front aimed at 2012 today, bringing together former Bush administration and McCain campaign staffers to attack President Obama on a range of foreign-policy issues.

Neoconservative foreign-policy heavyweights Liz Cheney and William Kristol are at the heart of the new initiative, called the Keep America Safe campaign. Their first Web video attacks Obama's decisions on altering the plan for missile-defense sites in Eastern Europe, the Justice Department's decision to look into interrogation abuses by the CIA, and the pending decision of whether or not to escalate in Afghanistan.

Ben Smith at Politico has more details on the makeup of the new group:

These days, presidential campaigns begin immediately after the previous election ends, often even before the opposition party has a candidate in mind. So it wasn’t too surprising that Republicans opened up a new foreign-policy front aimed at 2012 today, bringing together former Bush administration and McCain campaign staffers to attack President Obama on a range of foreign-policy issues.

Neoconservative foreign-policy heavyweights Liz Cheney and William Kristol are at the heart of the new initiative, called the Keep America Safe campaign. Their first Web video attacks Obama’s decisions on altering the plan for missile-defense sites in Eastern Europe, the Justice Department’s decision to look into interrogation abuses by the CIA, and the pending decision of whether or not to escalate in Afghanistan.

Ben Smith at Politico has more details on the makeup of the new group:

The group’s mechanics are largely a product of former campaign aides to Senator John McCain: Michael Goldfarb, now a Weekly Standard blogger, is an adviser to the group; its executive director is McCain war room chief Aaron Harison, and the video was produced by Justin Germany, the McCain aide who produced a campaign video titled, “The One,” which mocked Obama as a messianic figure. 

The Keep America Safe video – a fundraising tool that will be promoted on the Drudge Report and other conservative outlets – mocks Obama (in echoes of liberal attacks on his predecessor, George W. Bush) as a lightweight more interested in golf than in defending America.

Showing that the group is just as much about looking backwards as forward, Smith paraphrases Cheney as saying:

The Keep America Safe website, [Cheney] said, would feature memos by Bush Administration lawyers justifying waterboarding and other practices to make the case that they aren’t torture.

Democratic sources told The Cable they are taking a wait-and-see approach, hoping the negative connotations some Americans still associate with the Cheney family and the Bush administration’s policies will keep the group’s reach limited to those already in the conservative camp.

But the effectiveness of such techniques during the latter stages of the 2008 campaign means that the new campaign cannot be ignored. Kristol and some of his allies from the McCain presidential run are already serving as foreign-policy advisors to potential 2012 candidates, including Sarah Palin.

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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