We probably shouldn’t have been surprised at Vice President Dick Cheney’s blustering, obstinate insistence on ABC News on Monday that he’s been right all along about virtually everything. But that doesn’t mean we have to agree.
In the interview, Cheney not only acknowledged that he was involved in approving the harsh interrogation methods used by the CIA on suspected terrorists, but said he still thinks that waterboarding was an appropriate way to extract information. He said -- contradicting even President Bush -- that he believes the notorious American prison at Guantanamo Bay should remain open for the foreseeable future, and he reiterated that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was justified by, believe it or not, Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs.
Maybe this was just a desperate, last-minute effort to rescue what appears to be a legacy in deep trouble, but it came across asnothing less than self-delusion. Despite public opinion polls showing that only about a third of the country believes the U.S. should have invaded Iraq, undaunted by the irrefutable fact that America’s prestige has plummeted around the world, notwithstanding the outcry by human rights advocates against torture and the fact that there is no meaningful peace in sight in Iraq or Afghanistan, Cheney soldiers on with the same cocky, we know what we’re doing and laws be damned attitude that has come to define him. Even though the American electorate rose up last month to sweep out the GOP in an extraordinary rejection of Bush administration policy, he persists in defending eight years of morally and legally disastrous decisions.
Cheney, of course, was a hawkish, self-righteous and, ultimately, malevolent figure in the Bush inner circle from day one. In “Angler,” Barton Gellman’s excellent analysis of his tenure, he emerges as a man willing to bend virtually any rule, a true believer with “a sense of mission so acute it drove him to seek power without limit.” In Jane Mayer’s “The Dark Side,” he’s portrayed as pushing his colleagues into ever more morally questionable situations. “The most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history” is how Vice President-elect Joe Biden accurately described him during the campaign.
Cheney likes to joke about himself that when he told his wife, Lynne, that he had been nicknamed “Darth Vader,” she didn’t get angry. Instead, she responded: “It humanizes you.”
With that, we agree.