I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Dick Cheney "interview"

Consistent with his standard practice, Dick Cheney yesterday submitted to an "interview" with yet another far-right, Bush-worshipping talk radio host (Scott Hennen), and Cheney was asked what might be the most ironic "interview" question ever:

Q. I want to ask you about after the election, lastly. David Limbaugh has written a devastating book on today's Democratic Party that depicts them as partisans that are essentially bent on undermining our national interest in the war on terror. And given that record, and a potential change in congressional control, his view -- and he argues in this book -- is that you'd have a disastrous situation that would tie your hands, the President's hands, the administration's hands in the critical prosecution of this war.

Do you agree with that premise, that's what would happen if the election changes congressional control? And how do we change that tone, change that debate from this awful -- the people in the Heartland just do not like the tone in politics today.

A couple questions earlier in the interview, Hennen asked Cheney: "Are the terrorists trying to influence our election in your view?" Cheney explained that, in essence, Democrats and The Terrorists are working together to defeat the U.S. in the Global War on Terror: "when you see the kinds of things that happened this year, for example, when the Democratic Party in Connecticut purged Joe Lieberman, in effect, drummed him out of the party on the grounds that he had supported the President in the global war on terror, that sends a message to the terrorists overseas that their basic strategy of trying to break the will of the American people may, in fact, work."

And when Cheney was asked whether "the terrorists" are trying to engage in more violence now in order to influence the midterm elections -- meaning that they are trying to make Americans support Democrats (because, presumably, they want Democrats to win) -- Cheney replied: "I wouldn't be surprised. It sounds right to me. " Cheney also blamed the increased violence in Iraq on the desire of The Terrorists to see the Democrats win: "I think they're very much aware of our political calendar here, I really do" and " I think they are very conscious of the electoral timetable in the United States. "

So, just to recap: Rush Limbaugh's brother has a great new book showing how Democrats want The Terrorists to win and they want to undermine the U.S. all for their own selfish political gain. Cheney agrees that The Terrorists are doing what they can to ensure that Republicans lose the midterm elections because both they and the Democrats have the same goal: they want the U.S. to lose the war on terror. And also - it's really terrible how we have such an angry and mean-spirited tone in our political dialogue, and we in the Heartland don't like that kind of tone and want it changed. And Hennen knows this because "that's what we do for a living, talk to good folks in the Heartland every day."

Hennen and Cheney also shared their affection for waterboarding. Hennen told Cheney: "I've had people call and say, please, let the Vice President know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives" and Hennen asked: "Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" In reply to the latter question, Cheney replied: "It's a no-brainer for me" -- a statement understood, reasonably, to be the first open acknowledgement by a senior Bush official that we use waterboarding -- and Cheney agreed with Hennen that the torture debate "seems a little silly given the threat we face."

Somehow, this one short interview captures so much of the dysfunction and corruption at the heart of the Bush movement. Cheney, with rare exception, is willing to be "interviewed" only by the most sycophantic followers like Hennen, because our Leaders are to be praised, not questioned. The rabid sectarian violence in Iraq isn't a sign that their war policies have failed -- nothing is ever evidence of their mistakes or failures -- but instead is merely the by-product of the Terrorists' efforts to influence our elections so that their allies, the Democrats, win and are in a better position to undermine Bush's war on terror.

Our highest government officials now talk openly and enthusiastically -- almost playfully -- about taking people and "dunking them in water" -- meaning strapping them to a board, wrapping their faces in cellophane, and causing them to feel as though they are drowning to death -- only to then sermonize about the need for serious leaders to spread our civilized and democratic values around the world. And finally, Bush followers accuse their political opponents of being allies of The Terrorists and working to defeat the U.S. in its War -- indeed, that has become one of their core "arguments" -- and then afterwards piously lament that "the Left" engages in such angry and mean-spirited political dialogue and that people "in the Heartland" (who are always on their side) so very much wish the tone of politics would improve.

Most politicians are, to one degree or another, artificial, manipulative and hypocritical. One can argue that that's just the nature of what they do, particularly close to an election. But the mindset of the Bush movement is far beyond any of that. It is detached from reality in the most fundamental way, and the willingness to disregard and deny even the clearest of facts is literally without limits. It is difficult to overstate how urgent it is for our country that some serious limits be placed on what has been their unlimited and unchecked rule and how completely that need overrides all other considerations.

I think there is a tendency for many political commentators (myself included) to think about political matters in a more partisan-driven way than is typical as this election approaches, but there is good reason for that. Try to imagine the damage that will be done if they can act at will, without any real limits, for another two years, knowing that they face no other election and no real obstacles. What would be a more important political objective than doing what one can to prevent that?

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My Salon article on the New Jersey gay marriage ruling is now available here.

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