The First Draft: Now he’s talking!
Dan Quayle played golf in Arizona. Al Gore taught journalism in New York. But Dick Cheney is breaking with the tradition that former vice presidents quietly leave Washington and the public eye when they exit the White House. Even Cheney’s ex-boss, George W. Bush, has refrained from criticizing the Obama administration, saying the new team deserves his silence. But Cheney was positively gabby on a Sunday talk show.
While many in official Washington were recovering from Saturday evening’s White House Correspondents Association dinner — where President Barack Obama got off some memorable one-liners and comedian Wanda Sykes took aim at radio talk jock Rush Limbaugh, among others — Cheney gave a lengthy interview to “Face the Nation” on CBS television. The replay of clips from that chat were still reverberating on Monday’s morning shows on CNN, NBC and ABC.
On waterboarding terror suspects, which critics say doesn’t work in getting useful information — aside from it being torture — Cheney disagreed. “Khalid Shaikh Mohammed … an evil, evil man that’s been in our custody since March of ’03 … did not cooperate fully in terms of interrogations until after waterboarding. Once we went through that process, he produced vast quantities of invaluable information about Al Qaeda.”
Any regrets about his time in the White House? “No regrets. I think it was absolutely the right thing to do. I’m convinced, absolutely convinced, that we saved thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives.”
What about the detention center at Guantanamo, which Obama has said will be closed within a year? “We had to have a place, a facility, where we could capture these people and hold them until they were no longer a danger to the United States … we released hundreds already of the less threatening types. About 12 percent of them, nonetheless, went back onto the fight as terrorists. The group that’s left, the 245 or so, these are the worst of the worst.”
And what about Cheney’s Republican Party, now dealing with the defection of high-profile Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania? Should it move to the left to broaden its appeal to voters? “We are what we are. We’re Republicans … I think we win elections when we have good solid conservative principles to run upon and base our policies on those principles.”
If he had to choose between Rush Limbaugh and Colin Powell — the former Secretary of State and former head of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff — Cheney said he’d pick Limbaugh.
“Well, if I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I’d go with Rush Limbaugh, I think. I think my take on it was Colin had already left the party. I didn’t know he was still a Republican.”
Does any of this matter? After all, Cheney is no longer in government. You tell us: should Cheney continue to speak out or does he owe the Obama administration his silence in its early months?
Photo credit: REUTERS/Mitch Dumke (file photo of former Vice President Dick Cheney, October 15, 2008, Washington DC)