Thom Tillis, candidate for the U.S. Senate last fall, took great exception to U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s absence at a national security meeting with the Senate Armed Services Committee. He even had a campaign ad with images of terrorists and a cocktail glass, presumably a reference to Hagan’s attending a fundraiser out of state.
But now, eyebrows are raising and cocked toward North Carolina’s junior senator. Tillis, records examined by The Charlotte Observer show, missed a meeting this month of the same Armed Services Committee, a meeting in which ISIS and the ways to combat the Islamic State. The meeting was chaired by no less than Arizona’s John McCain.
The committee didn’t have any trouble getting the two people on the front lines of the U.S. effort against ISIS to come in with their expertise. They were Ashton Carter, secretary of Defense, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At a time when America is seeking any and all ways to curb the effectiveness and thus the danger of the Islamic State, this would seem to be a crucial meeting.
Alas, Tillis was absent. But his office offered a stentorian defense. Get a load of this from a Tillis spokesman: “Sen. Tillis 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.”
Not even Sen. McCain, as rock-ribbed a Republican as there is, could have been too happy about that one.
Dick Cheney, since leaving office, hasn’t been a go-to guy for the administration of President Obama on ISIS. He’s mainly focused on sharp criticism of the president. He’s been bristling in his defense of less-than-successful polices of the Bush administration and defended torture tactics used by the CIA. His behavior, in fact, has been outside the bounds most former presidents and vice presidents observe on leaving office, a feeling that those who have occupied the highest positions in government owe it to their successors to respect them if not support them.
Cheney has been unhindered by that custom and protocol, and he hasn’t done his wounded reputation any good with that kind of behavior. For Tillis to essentially rank a meeting with a former vice president as the equivalent of an important meeting with two of the highest ranking officials in government dealing with national security issues is absurd. The rookie senator is showing his inexperience.