Far from a secure, undisclosed location, former Vice President Dick Cheney is out in the open and increasing his criticism on the Obama administration and even fellow Republicans.
“If I don’t speak out, then where do we find ourselves … Then the critics have free run, and there isn’t anybody there on the other side to tell the truth,” Cheney said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. The former vice president was also asked about radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s recent jab that Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell no longer belongs in the Republican Party. “My take on it was Colin had already left the party,” Cheney said. “I didn’t know he was still a Republican. “I assume that that’s some indication of his loyalty and his interests,” Cheney said in reference to Powell’s endorsement of Democratic Sen. Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race. But Ed Rollins, a CNN contributor and GOP strategist, says Cheney’s attacks are not helping the Republican image. “While he certainly has a right to defend what they did over the last eight years, since he was the architect of much of it … at the end of the day, we need to be looking forward, not backwards,” Rollins said Monday. “[Powell] is a man of great stature and a man obviously either party would like to have supporting them.” Watch more of Rollins’ take » In a speech last week, Powell said that “the Republican Party is in deep trouble” and that the GOP would be better off without Limbaugh, according to a report by the National Journal. Limbaugh fired back on his program Wednesday, saying, “what Colin Powell needs to do is close the loop and become a Democrat instead of claiming to be a Republican interested in reforming the Republican Party.”
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Unlike former President George W. Bush, who has remained virtually mum on the current administration, Cheney has become a vocal opponent of changing the Republican Party’s ideological direction. Last week, Cheney told a North Dakota radio program that it would be a mistake for the beleaguered GOP to “moderate” its message. Other party leaders are echoing Cheney’s message. “I don’t want to moderate, either. I think our policies, the principles of our party are as viable today as they have in the past,” Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, told ABC. Democrats like the sound of that. “You poll Rush Limbaugh, Colin Powell, my money is on Colin Powell,” Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, who was Al Gore’s presidential campaign manager in 2000, said on CNN’s “State of the Union with John King.” Democratic strategist Lisa Caputo, a former Hillary Clinton campaign official, said Monday that Democrats “couldn’t love anything more than having Dick Cheney as the spokesperson for the [Republican Party].” Meanwhile, in a Web video released Sunday evening, the Democratic National Committee blasts the GOP for having Cheney, McCain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich serve as the GOP’s national spokesmen. The 38-second clip, posted on YouTube, opens with the statement: “Meet the New GOP Sunday Show Guests” stripped across the screen before it shows the three Republicans being introduced on the Sunday morning talk shows. The videos closing line: “The New GOP. Same As The Old GOP.” Cheney has become something of a regular on the Sunday TV circuit as he also defends the Bush administration’s use of interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, on suspected terrorists that are deemed torture by the current administration. “No regrets,” Cheney said on CBS. “I think it was absolutely the right thing to do. I’m convinced … that we saved thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives.” Watch Cheney defend the Bush administration’s policies » In fact, Cheney argued, “20 or 30 years from now, you’ll be able to look back on this and say this is one of the great success stories of American intelligence.” The comments come even as the Justice Department is weighing whether to prosecute Bush administration officials for authorizing the interrogation methods. Cheney, however, stated that the orders came straight from the top. “He basically authorized it. I mean, this was a presidential-level decision. And the decision went to the president. He signed off on it,” he said. Cheney said Sunday that he’d even be willing to go to Congress to fight for continued use of interrogation methods. “Certainly. … I’ve made it very clear that I feel very strongly that what we did here was exactly the right thing to do.” When asked whether he’d be willing to testify under oath, Cheney responded, “I’d have to see what the circumstances are and what kind of precedent we were setting. But certainly I wouldn’t be out here today if I didn’t feel comfortable talking about what we’re doing publicly.” Although Obama has been reserved in outright attacks against Cheney, he took a comedic swipe at the former vice president at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday: “He is very busy working on his memoirs, tentatively titled ‘How to Shoot Friends and Interrogate People.’ ” The former vice president has has repeatedly criticized Obama’s decision to release four memos from the Bush presidency that discuss tactics such as waterboarding. Cheney said he has called for the release of two other memos “that I personally know of, written by the CIA, that lay out the successes of those policies and point out in considerable detail all of — all that we were able to achieve by virtue of those policies.” Many lawmakers, including some Republicans such as McCain, have applauded Obama’s decision to end the use of certain interrogation methods. McCain, a former prisoner of war, says the United States makes itself vulnerable to more harm by using torture, which he argues rarely elicits good information from a prisoner. Its use, McCain has said, hurts the U.S. image and may encourage its enemies to torture Americans. But Cheney is not the first vice president to take on his successors. Al Gore accused the Bush White House of using torture three years ago. “They violate the Geneva Conventions against torture, the international law against torture and our own laws against torture!” Gore said January 16, 2006.
Now it’s Cheney’s turn. When asked whether he was surprised that he’d be the one to defend the administration so much, Cheney simply said, “that’s what vice presidents do.”