Dick Cheney’s Big Mouth

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Lately I’ve been trying to figure out why Dick Cheney can’t keep his mouth shut about President Obama’s torture-related moves since his inauguration. And then Greg Sargent nudged me toward a conclusion:

Cheney and company are working to shift the debate onto the narrow question of whether torture “works,” and as Ben Smith notes, this is probably not an argument Obama wants to have right now.

Nonetheless, Cheney’s high-profile entry into the debate is a net win for Obama and Dems. It makes this whole fight is about Bush’s — or, worse, Cheney’s — legacy, at a time when Republicans want it to be about the current Commander in Chief and whether he has what it takes to keep us safe.

So Cheney wants to talk about whether torture worked. This makes sense for him because it lets him talk about how be believes torture did work, and it doesn’t matter if it did or didn’t.

Why? Because it lets him act as though he was just looking out for the best interest of the country. This sounds much better than Cheney telling Hannity, “Well, Sean, I had no problem with the CIA torturing prisoners because I’m a vindictive asshole with little regard for the rule of law.”

But Cheney must know he can’t just say, “We were trying to keep America safe.” He can’t win that argument, because we have little evidence that waterboarding Abu Zubaida 83 times in a month, for example, protected us from further attack. He has to take the sophism a step further, calling for Obama to release more memos that allegedly prove torture did work.

This brings me back to Sargent’s post. Cheney saying something like this is, indeed, a net loss for the Republicans. (How many Republican talking heads are more odious right now than Dick Cheney?) But for Cheney it’s a net win. Why? Because it gives his original justification for torture two shoddy legs on which to stand. It doesn’t matter if these new memos actually exist. Assuming they’re just a conjured slice of Cheney’s imagination, Cheney can just keep claiming Obama and Hillary Clinton are keeping them secret because they can’t admit he’s right.

Obviously, it’s a completely cynical way of thinking. It’s also a bit fantastical; Cheney might as well have demanded Obama release evidence proving Saddam Hussein was in Al-Qaeda. But why stop there? Cheney’s selling himself short. Remember, wishes are free. In his whimsical world, he can wish for anything he wants. And as long as Cheney’s wishing for a new reality, he might as well wish that he was right about everything and throw in a wish for a pony, too. That’s what I’m wishing he’d do publicly. Then, at least, he’d be providing a sideshow rather than a talking point.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate