Former Vice President Dick Cheney continued to take his case to the people this morning on CBS’ Face the Nation, with Bob Schieffer. As usual, he was an effective advocate. He explained why he is pushing back against the Obama administration’s attacks on how he and others conducted the war against Islamic terrorists:
It was a time of great concern, and we put in place some very good policies, and they worked, for eight years. Now we have an administration that’s come to power that has been critical of the programs, but not only that, there’s been talk about prosecuting the lawyers in the Justice Department who gave us the opinions that we operated in accordance with, or referring them to the Bar Association for disbarment or sanctions of some kind, or possibly cooperating with foreign governments that are interested in trying to prosecute American officials, those same officials who were responsible for defending this nation for the last eight years.
That whole complex of things is what I find deeply disturbing, and I think to the extent that those policies were responsible for saving lives, that the administration is now trying to cancel those policies or end them, terminate them, then I think it’s fair to argue — and I do argue — that that means in the future we’re not going to have the same safeguards we’ve had for the last eight years.
Schieffer trotted out the party line that being mean to terrorists somehow makes us less safe:
SCHIEFFER: What do you say to those, Mr. Vice President, who say that when we employ these kinds of tactics, which are after all the tactics that the other side uses, that when we adopt their methods, that we’re weakening security, not enhancing security, because it sort of makes a mockery of what we tell the rest of the world?
CHENEY: Well, then you’d have to say that, in effect, we’re prepared to sacrifice American lives rather than run an intelligent interrogation program that would provide us the information we need to protect America.
The fact of the matter is, these techniques that we’re talking about are used on our own people. We — in a program that in effect trains our people with respect to capture and evasion and so forth and escape, a lot of them go through these same exact procedures. Now…
Actually, of course, “these kinds of tactics”–waterboarding, putting a caterpillar in a prisoner’s cell, grabbing a prisoner by the lapels–are not “the tactics that the other side uses.” The other side chops people’s heads off and, according to al Qaeda’s manual on how to torture prisoners, gouges out their eyes with a spoon. So we’re not exactly “adopt[ing] their methods.”
Schieffer still, apparently, fails to understand that enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding are humane but effective alternatives to much more brutal tactics:
SCHIEFFER: Do you — is what you’re saying here is that we should do anything if we could get information?
CHENEY: No. Remember what happened here, Bob. We had captured these people. We had pursued interrogation in a normal way. We decided that we needed some enhanced techniques. So we went to the Justice Department. And the controversy has arisen over the opinions written by the Justice Department.
The reason we went to the Justice Department wasn’t because we felt we were going to take some kind of free hand assault on these people or that we were in the torture business. We weren’t. And specifically, what we got from the Office of Legal Counsel were legal memos that laid out what is appropriate and what’s not appropriate, in light of our international commitments.
If we had been about torture, we wouldn’t have wasted our time going to the Justice Department.
That’s a rather obvious point that seems to have escaped the Bush administration’s critics.
Finally, Schieffer feigned concern about the fate of the Republican Party in the wake of the devastating loss of Arlen Specter:
SCHIEFFER: Colin Powell, Rush Limbaugh said the other day that the party would probably be better off if Colin Powell left and just became a Democrat. Colin Powell said Republicans would be better off if they didn’t have Rush Limbaugh out speaking for them. Where do you come down?
CHENEY: 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.
SCHIEFFER: So you think that he’s not a Republican?
CHENEY: I just noted he endorsed the Democratic candidate for president this time, Barack Obama. I assumed that that is some indication of his loyalty and his interest.
SCHIEFFER: And you said you would take Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell.
CHENEY: I would.
SCHIEFFER: All right.