Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cheney's Interview

True to form, Crooks and Liars is fresh out of the gate, posting clips of the Fox News Cheney interview. I'm sure the full thing will be on the web shortly.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post provides the transcript.

Expect much, much commentary and parsing on this subject from the blogosphere in the next few days.

I posted my immediate reaction over at Crooks and Liars:

Questions remain. Okay, I'll buy that Cheney wouldn't be thinking about the press first, but there's no way in hell it didn't occur to some of his staff, and to Andy Card and Rove at the White House. Cheney cops to the method of disclosure being ultimately his decision. Add in that the cops didn't get to interview him that night, and yes, we have a picture of Cheney doing things his way, as always, and most likely ignoring the advice of the White House. Also, was the gun modified in any way? I've read a few posts on other sites about modified chokes, which would alter the typical spray pattern. If the choke was normal, by most accounts Cheney must have been closer than 30 yards. But Cheney wheeled around and fired at a target while facing the sun? Huh? I'd like some more detail, here, too, because it seems awfully reckless. As to the leaks, Hume predictably ducks the obvious question: "Mister Vice President, did you either instruct or authorize Scooter Libby to disseminate the classified NIE to Judith Miller and/or any other reporters?" Hume asks Cheney to comment on the leak about the CIA black op prisons and the illegal NSA wiretaps, but glosses over the Plame leak - And what exactly is the VP's authority regarding declassifying material? "Mister Vice President, did you direct or authorize the leaking of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity?" "You say Scooter Libby is a good man - was it right that he leaked Plame's identity?" "Was the leaking of the NIE proper? Was the leaking of Plame's identity proper?" My god, the questions are endless, even without getting into his energy task force, the Saddam-al Qaeda claims, the manipulation of pre-war intel, thousands of lives saved by illegal wiretaps, or "last throes"... If nothing else, this interview shows for the first time Dick Cheney not quite apologizing, but admitting a mistake.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: Hume did in fact ask Cheney about whether he authorized Libby to leak classified information, although he did so in a pretty tame, indirect way, easy for Cheney to dismiss. Hume did not pose the question directly to Cheney about either Cheney's role or push him to make a judgment about the importance of the leak. Cheney went to Hume and Fox because he's a friendly face. Hume asks the question, but must know he wouldn't get an answer, and he doesn't push for more.

Honestly, I would give Hume decent but not certainly stellar marks for the interview, and almost wish there were two separate interviews for two very different subjects. For the shooting, questions remain, but the main purpose of the interview was to allow Cheney to tell what happened and take responsibilty for the action. Cheney does deserve credit for not blaming Whittington for being shot, as some earlier apologists bizarrely did. I would still like clarification on a number of points, but frankly, this is not the sort of situation that calls for a extremely confrontational interview.

In contrast, the leaking of classified information calls for just that. Cheney is well established as a liar. At the very least, any sane human being must acknowledge that he's repeatedly made statements that are questionable, problematic or demonstrably false (the Saddam-al Qaeda connection, it's certain Saddam have WMD, thousands of lives saved, "last throes," to name just a few) Cheney has repeated such statements about Saddam and al-Qaeda even after the CIA took the extraordinary step of politely but publicly correcting him. Cheney's motto has been described by White House staffers as "Never explain, never apologize," and regardless of the circumstances the man sticks by it. In his interview with Cheney, Jim Lehrer gave him a chance to correct the record yet again, but Cheney held fast to his ludicrous statement from May 31st, 2005 that the Iraq insurgency had been, and apparently still was, in its "last throes." Hume, like Jim Lehrer, poses some of the necessary questions, but when Cheney dodges them, there's not that much follow-up. Both men take a polite, respectful tact, with Lehrer pressing Cheney much more, but when Cheney offers a non-answer, an evasive answer, a ridiculous answer, or a lie, he's not really called on it. Hume may be a decent reporter - and the most balanced at Fox News - but he's made far too many partisan comments to be viewed as truly objective. In contrast, when Cheney gives a BS answer to Lehrer, Lehrer has to decide - how hostile do I get? How far can I push this? Lehrer is a great reporter, but he's also quite a civil one, and it seems for such an recalcitrant subject as Cheney, one needs more a bulldog - like say, Patrick Fitzgerald. Of course, Cheney would never consent to such an interview.

Here's the section on classified information from Hume's interview with Cheney:

Q On another subject, court filings have indicated that Scooter Libby has suggested that his superiors -- unidentified -- authorized the release of some classified information. What do you know about that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's nothing I can talk about, Brit. This is an issue that's been under investigation for a couple of years. I've cooperated fully, including being interviewed, as well, by a special prosecutor. All of it is now going to trial. Scooter is entitled to the presumption of innocence. He's a great guy. I've worked with him for a long time, have enormous regard for him. I may well be called as a witness at some point in the case and it's, therefore, inappropriate for me to comment on any facet of the case.

Q Let me ask you another question. Is it your view that a Vice President has the authority to declassify information?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: There is an executive order to that effect.

Q There is.


Q Have you done it?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I've certainly advocated declassification and participated in declassification decisions. The executive order --

Q You ever done it unilaterally?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't want to get into that. There is an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously focuses first and foremost on the President, but also includes the Vice President.

Q There have been two leaks, one that pertained to possible facilities in Europe; and another that pertained to this NSA matter. There are officials who have had various characterizations of the degree of damage done by those. How would you characterize the damage done by those two reports?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: There clearly has been damage done.

Q Which has been the more harmful, in your view?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't want to get into just sort of ranking them, then you get into why is one more damaging than the other. One of the problems we have as a government is our inability to keep secrets. And it costs us, in terms of our relationship with other governments, in terms of the willingness of other intelligence services to work with us, in terms of revealing sources and methods. And all of those elements enter into some of these leaks.

Q Mr. Vice President, thank you very much for doing this.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Brit.

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