Alex Massie

The Unbearable But Continuing Ghastliness of Dick Cheney

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Dick Cheney is quite a piece of work. I confess that back in 2000 I thought Bush did well in choosing Cheney to be his Vice-President. After all, the neophyte President-to-be could use some sage advice from a Washington veteran. And, yes, I enjoyed seeing Cheney cuff Joe Lieberman during their Vice-Presidential debate. That sanctimonious prig from Connecticut deserved it. But there are limits and it is remarkable that much of the conservative movement thinks it wise to seek advice from a man who left office with an approval rating of 13%.

Still, these things are what they are. But that's little excuse for Cheney's brazen, chutzpah-crammed performance on a North Dakota radio show today. Perhaps it should not surprise, but the dishonesty, mendacity and hypocrisy on display are, in their own way, impressive even by Washington's elevated standards.

To begin with, Cheney disputes the notion that Arlen Specter's defection is bad news for the GOP. Au contraire, it might be bad news for Democrats!

You know, we’d gone through the exercise here right after we got elected in 2000, and controlled the Senate just by virtue of my ability to cast a tie vote. It was 50-50, and then my vote gave us control of the Senate. They worked hard to switch Jeffords then — and they did — they promised him a committee chairmanship and so he went over to the other side and changed control of the Congress. I always had the feeling though that people looked at that and didn’t really like it. One of the things I thought it did was to build support for the Republican side in the next election in ’02, and we had an extraordinary outcome there where the Administration actually gained seats in the Senate in an off-year election (which almost never happens). So there are often times lasting consequences from these kinds of switches…and they’re not always positive from the side that receives the individual doing the switching.

Next question: should the GOP find some new tunes to play? No!

I think it would be a mistake for us to moderate. This is about fundamental beliefs and values and ideas ... what the role of government should be in our society, and our commitment to the Constitution and Constitutional principles. You know, when you add all those things up the idea that we ought to moderate basically means we ought to fundamentally change our philosophy. I for one am not prepared to do that, and I think most us aren’t. Most Republicans have a pretty good idea of values, and aren’t eager to have someone come along and say, “Well, the only way you can win is if you start to act more like a Democrat.”

I watch what he is doing, especially in the National Security area which is sort of my first interest. This whole question of detainees and interrogation of detainees and the Terrorist Surveillance Program and so forth, closing Guantanamo…I don’t think the vast majority of Americans support what he wants to do. I think in fact most Americans are pleased — when they think about it — that we were able to go nearly eight years without another major attack on the United States. They think we handled that pretty well.

I think the situation is that if anybody (who obviously has to have clearances) takes a look at the record, they’ll find that we had significant success as a result of these policies. One way to nail that down is that there are two documents in particular that I personally have read and know about that are still classified in that National Archives. I’d ask that they be de-classified, I made that request over a month ago on March 31st. What those documents show is the success, especially of the interrogation program in terms of what it produced by way of intelligence that let us track down members of Al-Qaeda and disrupt their plans and plots to strike the United States. It’s all there in black and white. It is work that was done by the Central Intelligence Agency after several years of experience with these programs. It demonstrates conclusively the worth of those programs. As I say, I’ve asked the Administration to de-classify them and so far they have not.

As for allegations of torture? Mr Cheney protests too much. Or, rather, he protests in unwittingly revealing fashion:

We resorted, for example, to waterboarding, which is the source of much of the controversy ... with only three individuals. In those cases, it was only after we’d gone through all the other steps of the process. The way the whole program was set up was very careful, to use other methods and only to resort to the enhanced techniques in those special circumstances.

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Finally, here's a good joke:

As somebody who’s got a conservative record as I do, and for example worked in the wage price control program back in the '70s, and not exactly a fan of expanding the size and role of government in our society...

Remember that this man was only two heartbeats from the Presidency.

UPDATE: God, re-reading this makes me feel bad. Not because I want to recant anything here but because there's too much shooting of fish in the barrel about it. And even when said fish need to be shot there's no point trying to be terribly happy about such an easy kill. And, yeah, it's also perhaps a little intemperate. I dunno.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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