Cheney: Infallible to the very end

What should the country make of Dick Cheney's exit interviews? Was he a "rare vice president who mattered" or was he "trapped in his bunker"?

Dick Cheney has a final message for everyone appalled by the record of the past eight years, said The New York Times in an editorial. Quit whining—things are great! Seeking to fashion a glittering legacy from the tatters of his White House tenure, our sneering vice president has been giving interviews in which he’s completely rewriting history, portraying the past eight years as a beneficent reign of unerring judgment. In Cheney’s alternate universe, Iraq was not a foolhardy, immensely costly war sold on false premises, but the “right thing to do.” The torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib had nothing at all to do with the illegal interrogation techniques Cheney championed. And the “crippling” budget deficit owes nothing to the administration’s reckless tax cuts for the wealthy. As for the 70 percent or so of Americans who think he and Bush did a lousy job, what do they know?

Complain all you want, said Paul Mirengoff in The Philadelphia Inquirer, but Cheney was a rare vice president who mattered. “By exerting maximum influence early in the war on terrorism, Cheney set its course.” His aggressive campaign to put al Qaida on the defensive, including harsh interrogations of detainees, was critical in keeping the U.S. safe from terrorist attacks for seven years. Cheney not only had the courage of his convictions, said William Kristol in The New York Times, but he was that rare politician with the guts to speak the unvarnished, unpopular truth. As his exit interviews demonstrate, with Cheney you get “no spin. No double talk.”

Put yourself in Cheney’s shoes, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post, and it’s easier to understand why he went off the deep end. The 9/11 attacks created “chaos and anguish” in Washington, leaving senior White House officials frantic to stop al Qaida from killing more Americans. Over time, however, visceral reactions and panic “are supposed to give way to reasoned analysis.” For Cheney, that “never happened,” and the administration’s pre-emptive torture and wiretapping tactics “dishonored our nation’s most precious ideals.” And to what end? asked Dahlia Lithwick in Several intelligence interrogators and FBI Director Robert Mueller have said that torturing al Qaida suspects produced mostly bad information, and stopped no terrorist attacks. So where does that leave Cheney? Trapped in his bunker, insisting to the end that torture isn’t a war crime, that the Constitution says what he says it does, and that everyone else is stupid, traitorous, and wrong.

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