Since leaving office, Vice President Cheney has launched unrelenting and baseless attacks on President Obama while vigorously defending the Bush administration’s actions, which are currently being investigated. “I think that’s a great success story,” Cheney said of the Bush administration’s torture program. “It was done legally. It was done in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles.”
In an interview with biographer Stephen Hayes on Monday, Cheney explained why he has emerged as such a vocal Bush defender and Obama critic — in contrast to President Bush, who says Obama “deserves my silence.” Cheney said that when he was a member of Congress during the Iran-Contra investigations (of which he was a prominent critic), he saw firsthand senior administration officials absolving themselves while unfairly pinning blame on the “little guys.” Because of this, Cheney said, he “sure as hell will” continue to speak out:
CHENEY: I went through the Iran-contra hearings and watched the way administration officials ran for cover and left the little guys out to dry. And I was bound and determined that wasn’t going to happen this time. I think to George Tenet’s credit–I don’t agree with George on a lot of stuff–but I think he was of the same view and that’s why we had all of these requests coming through for policy guidance and for legal opinions. And this time around I’ll do my damndest to defend anybody out there–be they in the agency carrying out the orders or the lawyers who wrote the opinions. I don’t know whether anybody else will, but I sure as hell will.
Cheney’s defense of the “little guy,” especially with regard to torture, is unusual. First, the Bush officials implicated in approving torture were hardly “little” — they were the senior-most Bush administration officials, such as David Addington, Jay Bybee, and Alberto Gonzales.
Second, after Abu Ghraib broke in 2004, Cheney and the Bush administration systematically laid the blame for the abuses on low-level interrogators and attempted to exonerate senior officials. Cheney, for example, blamed “folks doing something improper, inappropriate, illegal.” Paul Wolfowitz famously called it the work of “a few bad apples.” Former press secretary Tony Snow called the abuses “a criminal infraction for which people were charged.”
Yet as a recent Senate Armed Services Committee report observed, “The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own.” Indeed, the tactics were directly approved by Donald Rumsfeld in 2002.