Cheney Agonistes

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

What is strange about the furor over the Cheney interviews is that so many of the arguments against them simply have no precedent or logic.

If one were to say the vice president emeritus, as a matter of understood decorum, should refrain from criticism of the subsequent administration, then why did former vice president Al Gore — to the delight of much of the media — go on a virtual barnstorming crusade against the Bush administration in language far more partisan and hysterical (e.g., “He [Bush] lied to us! He betrayed this country! He played on our fears!”)?

If one were to say that the vice president was representing some fringe position on the status of detainees at Guantánamo, then one need only review the transcript of Attorney General Eric Holder’s 2002 CNN interview when Holder explicitly said those at Guantánamo could be held indefinitely for the duration of the war and were without the benefit of the protections offered by the Geneva Convention Accords.

If one were to argue Cheney is simply covering his tracks on the subject of waterboarding, then one need only be reminded that Cheney admits he was briefed and approved the techniques and now candidly tells us why he did so — while the Speaker of the House was likewise briefed, and by her silence as a congressional overseer approved de facto the techniques, but now quite disingenuously denied such complicity at the very time she seeks to ruin the careers of lawyers who merely offered opinions rather than set or oversaw policy.

If one were to believe that Cheney was selectively trying to refashion the past, then consider that (a) his points are clearly in reply to the Obama’s administration’s own prior selective release of Bush-administration legal counsel briefs, done for partisan political purposes and over the objections of career CIA officers, and (b) Cheney is asking for full, let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may disclosure in his requests to make the entire record public of both the interrogations and their relevance to preventing further attacks.

In short, while pundits still believe Cheney is a marginalized figure and an easy target of scorn, in fact, his methodical defense of the past is both logical and principled, and is beginning to illustrate, in quite painful fashion, the utter hypocrisy of the entire Democratic position on enhanced interrogations techniques and Guantánamo Bay. The American people more likely agree with Cheney than not; and even if they did not, they still prefer a candid and honest opponent to a disingenuous and self-serving ally.

As a footnote: In these Machiavellian times, it almost seems that the White House and some in the Democratic Congress who are still calling for hearings are at ease embarrassing Nancy Pelosi, whose prior value to the party as anti-Bush bomb thrower has now been eclipsed, since she appears as a looney, undisciplined partisan that can do far more damage to the cause than she ever did to Bush.

©2009 Victor Davis Hanson

Share This