Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Cheney - Wallace Interview Part II

Here's Part II of my look at Vice President Cheney's recent interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News.

When asked about the effectiveness of the controversial measures taken by the administration, Cheney responds:

the actions that we took, based on the President's decisions and based on some outstanding work by the intelligence community and by the military, has produced a safe seven-and-a-half years, and I think the record speaks for itself.
.  I've seen this dismissed out of hand by various commentators as an empty justification for illegal actions.  In my opinion, those views are nothing more than baseless partisan bias.  Just because Cheney didn't list a bunch of specifics detailing how intelligence was used, doesn't mean the actions taken were ineffective.  Once again, Cheney is entitled to claim credit for preventing another direct attack on the U.S., regardless of what you think of his methods.

There is a long exchange between Cheney & Wallace regarding the administration's cooperation and conflict with the other two branches.  I think there are couple of key points covered.  First, Cheney makes another case for war powers based on the U.S. being at war after 9/11, rather than facing a law enforcement situation.  He then argues that detainees were not covered by the Geneva Convention, and that enemy combatants can be held for the duration of the war.  Unlike some, I find Cheney's arguments reasonable on principle.  The problems lie with the nature of the war(s) and the specific actions taken by the administration. They handled things in a haphazard fashion, in a way that often maximized conflict with the other two branches, and compounded the difficulties thru secrecy.  Cheney's words clearly demonstrate that his attitude was that the executive would do whatever it thought best until stopped by the courts or Congress.  That's not exactly a recipe for success in a government based on three coequal branches.

Overall the interview is very interesting, despite the fact that much is just typical self-justification by a political leader.  But the interview also shows again the gray areas in which the administration operated, and the shaky basis for its extreme claims of executive power.  


  1. "The record speaks for itself" is quite rich coming from someone who can't name a single serious terrorist threat the US thwarted under his watch (cf. the millennium plot). All he has to fall back on is that the US hasn't been attacked in 7 years, which was true in 2000 as well.

  2. "someone who can't name a single serious terrorist threat the US thwarted under his watch"

    Since the fight against Al Qaeda is ongoing, I don't expect any specifics. It wouldn't make any difference anyway. It's pretty hard to specify how things didn't happen. It's possible that if he wanted to, he could give a long list of supposed plots that were foiled. But we'd still have no idea whether or not they were ever serious threats.

    "ll he has to fall back on is that the US hasn't been attacked in 7 years, which was true in 2000 as well."

    Well, after 9/11 there was much fear and speculation that there would be more major terrorist attacks on the U.S. There haven't been any. So I think it's fair that he get to claim credit.

  3. Well, some serious plots do get released: the millennium plot is the main example. Further, even when a foiled plot does get publicized, it's possible to tell. The plot the British foiled in August '06 seemed serious, but then turned out to be in the very early planning stages. The JFK and Holland Tunnel plots sounded sensational, but then turned out to be half-baked.