In the stellar Washington Post expos© on Dick Cheney, the public learned that key presidential aides were often intentionally kept out of the loop on important decisions by the Vice President. For example, President Bush’s decision to try detainees in military commissions and strip them of their due process rights was not conveyed to Secretary of State Colin Powell:
“What the hell just happened?” Secretary of State Colin L. Powell demanded, a witness said, when CNN announced the order that evening, Nov. 13, 2001.
In addition, the Post reported that a Cheney-commissioned Justice Department memo that advocated the legal justification for torture was kept out of Powell’s sight:
On June 8, 2004, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell learned of the two-year-old torture memo for the first time from an article in The Washington Post.
Last night in an interview with Larry King, Powell criticized Cheney, saying, “[He] sometimes went directly to the president and the rest of us weren’t aware of what advice he was giving.” He also chastised the White House’s manner of doing business. “It was not a system where we routinely exposed all points of view,” he said. Watch it:
In the interview, Powell reaffirmed his stated desire to close Guantanamo, arguing it is one of the reasons “we are losing around the world”:
The reason I am feeling so strongly about Guantanamo is that while we’re arguing these legal issues, we are getting killed in terms of our international reputation because of the place. And we are losing around the world. And what makes it even more difficult is some of the biggest thugs in the world and people that you want to press on moral issues and human rights issues hide behind Guantanamo and say don’t lecture us when you have Guantanamo.
KING: Brent Scowcroft, the former national security adviser to Bush I, said about a year ago that this is a Dick Cheney I don’t know. And they were once very close. You were very close, as I remember, in the early ’90s.
C. POWELL: We were joined at hand and glove. Yes, I…
KING: Joined at the hip, some said, right?
C. POWELL: Well, I will let Brent speak for himself. But Mr. Cheney has strong views on issues. And, as you would expect, he presses those strong views. We all had strong views and we pressed those views. Sometimes he went directly to the president and the rest of us weren’t aware of — of what advice he was giving, and sometimes I would do that, as well. It was not a system where we routinely exposed all points of view.
But the bottom line is that the president is the one who decides what advice he wishes to accept and act on and what advice he doesn’t feel he should act on.