A Viewer's Guide to Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney is making a rare appearance Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press to discuss the Senate Intelligence Committee's CIA torture report. It's an unnecessary one, really. The former vice president slipped into media chairs to trash the investigation's findings even before the first public reports emerged on its shocking details. So here are five things you need to know as you watch:
1. He thinks the Senate report is "full of crap" and a "crock."
Cheney wasn't a mealy-mouthed politician during his years as a top administration official. He's further embraced that reputation since leaving the VP post. "I get to say exactly what I think," he told Charlie Rose in June. His reaction to the Democrat-led Senate panel report has been no exception. The New York Times captured his "crock" comment. In a Fox interview that aired Wednesday, he asserted it was "full of crap," adding: "It's a terrible piece of work."
2. But he hasn't read it.
Cheney acknowledged he hasn't perused the committee's 6,700-page investigation, or even its declassified 500-page executive summary. In fairness, he doesn't need to. He's in it. Cheney's name comes up 44 times in the report. From a footnote one can glean that not only did Cheney not want to read about the his former colleague's work, he didn't want anyone else to either–ever. "In 2006, Vice President Cheney expressed reservations about any public release of information regarding the CIA program," it states.
3. He said they knew.
He has taken pains in both post-release interviews to refute the idea that President George W. Bush was kept in the dark about the interrogation techniques. "I think he knew everything he wanted to know and needed to know," he said in the Fox interview. Another search through the footnotes backs him up: "March 4, 2005, Briefing for Vice President Cheney: CIA Detention and Interrogation Program." That followed cited briefings in 2003, 2004, and before one in 2006. The president received similar backgrounders.
Of course, there were also some things that Cheney, Bush and other high-ranking officials didn't want to know. According to the report: "A proposed phone call to the Vice President Cheney to [redacted name] solidify support for CIA operations in Country [unnamed] was complicated by the fact that Vice President Cheney had not been told about the locations of the CIA detention facilities. The CIA wrote that there was a "primary need" to "eliminate any possibility that [unnamed person] could explicitly or implicitly refer to the existence of a black site in [the country]" during the call with the vice president. There are no indications that the call occurred."
4. He uses Meet the Press as a big platform.
Although Cheney has become a fixture on Fox, he's turned to the NBC program to make bold statements over the years. He chose MTP as his first television appearance after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 1, 2001. Host Tim Russert did the show from the presidential retreat Camp David that Sunday. Cheney's closing line to the American people that day: "There are those in the world who hate us and will do everything they can to impose pain, and we can't let them win."
5. Why is anyone is still listening to Cheney, six years after he left office?
Cheney's blunt talk is a win-win in Washington. His black-and-white views of the world give him a bigger bullhorn that those who see gray, so he is viewed as the ultimate spokesman for the Republican Party's hawk division. The fact that he outrages liberals and delights conservatives also means he can be a ratings and website bonanza for those news outlets that score one of his occasional public moments. Kudos to MTP.