That position is growing less and less odd, however, as the GOP matures into a post-Bush identity on civil liberty and foreign policy. Some of the GOP’s fastest-rising stars, including Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, have spoken forcefully against the expansion of executive power that is largely a byproduct of the Bush years. In March, Paul led a 13-hour filibuster against John Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA, charging that Obama was claiming a dangerous degree of authority to order unmanned drone strikes and blocking efforts to make the controversial drone program more transparent. Cruz has railed against Obama’s efforts to expand executive power, including the Justice Department’s recent failed legal push to attach GPS devices to vehicles without a warrant.
The criticism has clearly stung the president, who found himself explaining his drone policies to his own supporters. “This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here,” he told Democratic senators, according to Politico. But now Cheney himself is piling on, accusing Obama of a cover-up in Benghazi. “They lied,” the former vice president — who was often accused by Democrats of bending the truth on national security matters — told Fox News’s Sean Hannity on Monday night.
Republicans are painting a cartoon image that won’t stick, Obama’s allies insist. “It’s absurd and not remotely believable unless you’re a conspiracy theorist or one of the 39% of voters who think Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American history but don’t know where it is,” former Obama national security spokesman Tommy Vietor told TIME. “This is one of those ridiculous theories fringe political groups cook up to vent their anger that just has no basis in reality. No one is alleging Obama directed the IRS to do what it did.”