Anderson Cooper Almost Manages to Give Liz Cheney a Tough Interview
By Heather Friday May 22, 2009 8:00am
Anderson Cooper had some tough questions for Liz Cheney, but like any good Villager comes out swinging initially but fails to do any real follow up after Cheney lies to him repeatedly. It was nice to see someone actually call bulls#@t on some of her talking points though. It's more than I can say for Chuck Todd. Cheney also basically admits that her father's reason for speaking out has more to do with protecting his own hide than national security. The transcript of the full interview is available here.
- COOPER: Most former vice presidents walk off the public stage quietly, at least for a while, but not Dick Cheney. His tough talk seems to be working for him. His approval rating, now 37 percent, has jumped eight points since leaving office in January. President Bush's approval rating has risen six points, to 41 percent, from 35.
Dick Cheney's daughter Liz served in the State Department during Bush administration, has been an outspoken defender of her father's record as vice president. She joins us now.
Thanks for being here.
LIZ CHENEY: Great to be here. Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Is it -- is it appropriate for your father to be so out in front right now so soon after leaving office, essentially mocking the sitting president of the United States?
L. CHENEY: Well, he's not mocking the sitting president. But I think that...
COOPER: Well, saying he's pandering to Europe?
L. CHENEY: He is pandering to Europe.
I mean, I think that -- that, you know, there's sort of a level of political nicety that's important to observe, except in certain circumstances. And one of those circumstances is where the national security of the nation is at risk, as my father feels strongly that it is.
I don't think he planned to be doing this, you know, when they left office in January. But I think, as it became clear that President Obama was not only going to be stopping some of these policies, that he was going to be doing things like releasing the -- the techniques themselves, so that the terrorists could now train to them, that he was suggesting that perhaps we would even be prosecuting former members of the Bush administration, I think my dad began to feel very strongly that somebody needed to speak out, that this needed to be a full airing of views, and not a one-sided mischaracterization of the last eight years.
COOPER: But these -- you know, these are techniques which have been around. I mean, the Nazis used them. The -- the Khmer Rouge used them. The -- the North Koreans used them. So, it's not as if terrorists were unfamiliar with these techniques, if they wanted to train for them. And I'm not sure you really can train for torture or -- or enhanced interrogation.
L. CHENEY: Well, I think, first of all -- yes, I mean, I would question the premise there.
I think that you have got to look at the legal memos, actually, which now you can do. The legal memos are very clear. And this was a -- a very carefully designed program, and it was a program that the CIA designed, that they had the lawyers look at to make sure that the line that divided sort of rough treatment from torture wouldn't be crossed.
But the important point here, though, there's a big difference between a terrorist sort of Googling, you know, techniques that might be used and a terrorist who can now pull up these memos and actually see, OK, well, they're going to be able to do this, you know, to me for this many minutes, but I know they won't cross that line.
What the president has done is ensure that no future president can use any of these techniques. So, that's a big step. And that's a step that I think really does endanger the country.
And, frankly, if the president himself in the future is faced with a ticking-time-bomb scenario, it's not clear to me, you know, what exactly he will do, even though he's reserved to himself the right to take action like these techniques.
COOPER: Is it appropriate, though, for your father, who has had access to high-level intelligence for -- for eight years, to be very publicly waving a flag, saying, we're much weaker now than ever before? Isn't that, in fact, emboldening our enemies? Couldn't you make that argument?
L. CHENEY: I think that it is a moral obligation to stand up and say, wait a second. You know, when you...
COOPER: But you can write letters. You can -- you can have meetings with the president. He could have a meeting with the president and say very firmly, "This is what I believe," and the president would either listen to him or not.
But to stand up publicly and -- if...
Well,. Yes. No, absolutely.
COOPER: If a Democrat was doing this in a Republican administration, wouldn't be the Republicans be saying, this is traitorous?
L. CHENEY: I don't think -- I don't think-- no. And I don't think that our political system was designed so that, when a party takes power, immediately, the opponents are silenced. I don't think that's healthy for the political system. I think that may, in fact, have been what the Obama administration was anticipating or was hoping for, that they could tell the American people: Trust us. We know what's best, and these tactics didn't work.
But I think that, in fact, what's happened is, my dad has stood up and said: Wait a minute. If you're going to be the transparency president, and if you're going to libel the brave men and women who conducted this program, and if you're going to release information that helps the terrorists, at least you ought to release the information that tells the American people what we learned from this program.
COOPER: Your father said today -- and you have said it in the past -- and your father repeated it today -- he's said it a lot -- that -- that, basically, what happened in Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident. He -- he termed them sadistic prison guards.
Isn't that -- goes against the evidence, that, basically, there was a line between what happened in Guantanamo Bay and what happened in Bagram Air Base and what happened later on in Abu Ghraib?
L. CHENEY: No, I think that's just absolutely wrong, Anderson.
I mean, I think, first of all, the enhanced interrogation program, which the president has now stopped, was a program that was run by the Central Intelligence Agency, designed by the CIA, approved by everybody in the administration. And...
COOPER: So, you're saying there's no connection between all these?
L. CHENEY: No, absolutely. There's no connection.
COOPER: Isn't that -- but that goes against...
L. CHENEY: No. There's...
COOPER: That goes against what the Schlesinger report says.
L. CHENEY: For you to assert -- for you to assert...
COOPER: It's not -- it's not me. It's what the Schlesinger report, which was an independent report by a Republican...
L. CHENEY: No. But the Schlesinger report did not say that Abu Ghraib was U.S. policy.
COOPER: Well, no, the Schlesinger said what -- what...
L. CHENEY: And Abu Ghraib...
COOPER: And I have it right here.
It says, "Although specifically limited by the secretary of defense to Guantanamo and requiring his personal approval, given in only two cases, the augmented interrogation techniques for Guantanamo migrated to Afghanistan and Iraq, where they were neither limited, nor safeguarded."
L. CHENEY: OK, but that's not talking about Abu Ghraib.
And what we have seen at Abu Ghraib and the photos that we saw out of Abu Ghraib were clearly about crimes.
COOPER: It is talking about Abu Ghraib. It's saying -- it's strategy, these techniques -- the guy who ran Gitmo was sent over to Iraq later on, because they felt these were efficient techniques. He moved over to Gitmo. And then you have Abu Ghraib.
L. CHENEY: Yes, but, Anderson -- Anderson, you are completely rewriting history to say that there was a connection...
COOPER: I'm not. This is the Schlesinger report.
L. CHENEY: Well, no, but you are misinterpreting the Schlesinger report.
To say that there -- there somehow was a connection between the commander of Guantanamo and what happened at Abu Ghraib, that -- that is a complete disservice to him. What happened at Abu Ghraib was a crime. And happened at Abu Ghraib had absolutely nothing to do with the enhanced interrogation program, about which we have been having a national debate, that saved American lives.
COOPER: So, one of the techniques, none of the things -- the pictures that we saw at Abu Ghraib, none of that was done at any of these other facilities?
L. CHENEY: Well, I wasn't at those other facilities. I do know what happened at Abu Ghraib was a crime and that the people there have been prosecuted.
The question that you should -- no, but, Anderson, the question that you should be asking...
COOPER: Well, 20 people -- but 100 people have died in U.S. custody, 20 of...
COOPER: ... ruled a homicide.
L. CHENEY: Anderson, the question you should be asking is, when a terrorist has information about an attack on the United States, as we saw in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for example, is it the obligation of the president to, within the law, be able to get that information and save American lives?
And I think the vast majority of Americans believe it is.
L. CHENEY: Or is it the case, as President Obama has said, that we won't enlist any of these techniques; what we will do is, we allow the terrorists to lawyer up, and we will simply ask them nicely for information?
Now, that puts you in a position where you are sacrificing American lives because you are concerned about the rough treatment of terrorists. And that's not where the majority of the American people are. And I don't believe that that is fulfilling a president's duty to defend the nation.
COOPER: But that ticking-time-bomb scenario, which is often used, there's -- there's really very little -- little evidence -- maybe it's happened on one or two occasions, but there are...
L. CHENEY: Well, wouldn't it be nice to know that, though, Anderson? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to know specifically what we learned?
COOPER: I'm not saying -- I understand your position of wanting these things to be released, absolutely.
L. CHENEY: And I don't think that you can have this discussion...
COOPER: I think that's a very valid argument.