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Why is Thom Tillis seeking advice on the Middle East from Dick Cheney?

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, an architect of the U.S. war in Iraq, has been counseling Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., on Middle East policy.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, an architect of the U.S. war in Iraq, has been counseling Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., on Middle East policy. GETTY

When you are a sitting United States senator, you can’t let people run around calling you a hypocrite.

You might, in point of fact, be one. But still, you’re a national political figure. And national political figures don’t let personalized political attacks go unanswered.

So, when critics called Republican Thom Tillis a hypocrite for missing a national security hearing – one not so different from the one he slammed Kay Hagan for missing – well, Tillis knew he had to respond.

Hagan missed her hearing to attend a campaign fundraiser, Tillis’ staff noted. He had a far better reason for missing a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on ISIS.

He was meeting with former Vice President Dick Cheney “for a one-on-one discussion on America’s strategy to defeat ISIS and ways to pursue our national security interests at home and abroad,” according to Tillis spokesman Daniel Keylin.

Yes, you heard that correctly. North Carolina’s junior senator is seeking Middle East policy pointers from the architect of the disastrous Iraq war that destabilized the region and set the stage for ISIS.

One can understand why Cheney would keep holding himself out as a voice of authority on the region. He helped goad President George W. Bush into a misguided invasion that clearly made the United States no safer, yet cost the lives of more than 4,400 American soldiers and 134,000 civilians, not to mention $1.7 trillion from the U.S. treasury.

When you’re struggling to live with that sad legacy, you convince yourself that, despite all evidence to the contrary, you did the right thing. Somehow, Cheney has done that for himself. He even turned up on Fox News recently, asking “what the hell” Barack Obama is thinking with this new nuclear deal with Iran.

The pact will, Cheney said with no trace of irony or self-awareness, “dramatically undermine” U.S. influence in the region.

What does it say about Tillis’ judgment that this is who he seeks guidance from on the Middle East? And, perhaps equally troubling, why is Tillis touting that fact as if it’s something he should be proud of?

Next time he misses a hearing on ISIS, let’s hope he is indeed at a campaign fundraiser somewhere. Eric Frazier

Postscript: Keylin emailed after this blogpost was published to note that Tillis has been meeting with national security leaders from both parties, including former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., director of the Woodrow Wilson Center.

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